Below-strength Addicks out of FA Cup as Wimbledon gain confidence-booster

AFC Wimbledon 3 – Charlton 1

Timing is everything in football. Whether that is connecting with the sweet spot on a ball pinged across the face of goal or facing teams at the right moment.

Wimbledon’s FA Cup second round win on Sunday was a perfect example. When these two clubs met at The Valley in late October, the Dons were desperately lacking, both in firepower and confidence.

They came to SE7 with defence and a clean sheet in mind. But for a moment of magic from Ricky Holmes, the point would have been secured. But on Sunday, on home turf and with the shackles of League One not on them, they were a far different proposition for a Charlton Athletic side bereft of a number of key men.

Wimbledon manager Neal Ardley admitted post-match that the absence of Tariqe Fosu and Billy Clarke gave them less to worry about. Just as telling was the fact that Patrick Bauer and Jason Pearce – the number one centre-back partnership for Karl Robinson, also sat out the tie. It also helped that the hosts had rediscovered their scoring touch. They have netted in six of their last seven matches, in contrast to six blanks in nine outings following that narrow defeat at the Addicks’ home.

Cody McDonald has not found it a bleak winter so far. His 10th-minute opener was his third goal in five games, a typical bit of poaching after Ezri Konsa failed to deal with Deji Oshilaja’s committed and powerful surge into the box. And Lyle Taylor was outstanding. George Long collected the man-of-the-match award, but my vote would have gone to the Wimbledon number 33.

The fact he was even on the pitch following the death of his aunt a day earlier showed character. And he went on to put in a performance which played a huge part in Charlton’s downfall. McDonald did superbly with the assist for Taylor’s 70th-minute goal. Naby Sarr tried to pull back the former Gillingham man but referee James Linington astutely tried to play the advantage.

The Dons will be glad the official wasn’t too quick with the whistle as McDonald put the ball on a plate for Taylor to slot into the bottom left corner. It might have looked a simple finish, but so too did the chance for Josh Magennis 20 minutes earlier.

Jay Dasilva’s shot clipped off a Wimbledon player but Long managed to get enough of a contact on the ball for it to come back off the right post. Magennis, from six yards out, contrived to scoop the follow-up over. It was fitting that Taylor – the best attacking player on the pitch – ended the Addicks’ hopes of a comeback. Anfernee Dijksteel coped well with a far more experienced opponent in Andy Barcham but the latter went down in the box and Linington awarded the penalty.

Taylor clinically dispatched it past Ben Amos. Robinson claimed that the young Dutchman made a fair tackle in the box but Charlton did not create enough in the second period to feel aggrieved at the outcome.

One bonus for Robinson is that Karlan Ahearne-Grant is showing significant signs he is bridging the gap between under-23 football and making it at first-team level. His talent has never been in doubt but the pressures of featuring for the senior side seemed to weigh heavily on him – especially when it came to taking chances. The 20-year-old scored for the second match in a row as he forced home after Mark Marshall drove the ball across the face of the Dons goal.

Magennis played his part as he flicked on Amos’ long kick, it was a rare moment of direct play by Charlton, who clearly have an edict to try and pass their way up the pitch whenever possible. At times that more high-risk approach saw Wimbledon win the ball in dangerous positions.

The Addicks look like a squad who are feeling the effects of a heavy schedule – and it is no surprise they are set to field the kids in tonight’s EFL Trophy tie at Swansea City. Any team would miss key men and they had six players who would all conceivably be in Robinson’s strongest line-up.

Wimbledon are beginning to recover from their poor start to the 2017-18 campaign, with only one loss since the start of November. The class they possess – with Taylor one of the best frontmen at this level when in the mood – means they should be able to pull clear of the skirmish for League One survival.

Confidence is crucial. And the Dons’ results of late will have worked wonders in that respect.

AFC Wimbledon (4-3-3-): Long 8, Fuller 7, Oshilaja 7, Charles 7, Meades 7, Trotter 6, Soares 6, Barcham 7 (Kennedy 89), Forrester 6 (Francomb 75), Taylor 9, McDonald 8 (Abdou 82). Not used: McDonnell, Kaja, Robinson, Nightingale. Charlton (4-2-3-1): Amos 6, Dijksteel 7, Konsa 6, Sarr 6, Dasilva 7, Forster-Caskey 6, Aribo 6 (Lennon 88), Marshall 7 (Hackett-Fairchild 76), Ahearne-Grant 7 (Best 67, 5), Holmes 6, Magennis 6. Subs: Phillips, Jackson, Dodoo.

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