The new owner was there, 2,000 socially-distanced fans were there, and – praise be – the Addicks rose to the occasion to thump their south London rivals. KEVIN NOLAN was there too.
A tumultuous change of fortunes in the second half of this old-school thriller catapulted Charlton ahead of AFC Wimbledon and restored order to incipient chaos. Their visitors’ two-goal response to Conor Washington’s 37th minute strike had sent them in for the break shaken and suitably chastened.
As perennial underdogs, these authentic Dons have made a habit of bloodying noses, particularly those turned up in distaste at their pedigree. But on this occasion, their opponents were having none of it. They were in undeniable trouble but were primed to handle it. More about that later.
A rousing first half, meanwhile, at the start of which the Addicks were indebted to Chris Gunter for popping up behind a beaten Ben Amos to clear Joe Pigott’s effort off the goal line, had somehow remained scoreless until Washington struck. Sent clear by Jason Pearce’s raking pass through the left flank, the Irishman turned abruptly inside Terell Thomas and let fly from distance. Aided by a faint deflection off the straining Thomas, his splendid curler left Connal Trueman helpless on its way into the far top corner.
Charlton were on their way, it seemed, to routine victory over plucky but slightly outclassed visitors. But there were awkward bumps in the road ahead. A former academy student at Sparrows Lane, Pigott reacted to his rejection by Charlton by forging an impressive career as a lower-league striker. He had a point to prove and duly proved it with a breathtaking equaliser as half-time loomed. Using a feathery touch to control Steve Seddon’s pass with his back to goal, a soft-shoe shuffle sent the home defence heading west while he turned sharply to the east. A glorious 18-yard drive beat Amos and overshadowed Washington’s impressive opener.
In added time, Glyn Hodges’ spirited Wombles went one better and turned the game on its head by grabbing the lead. A right-wing corner delivered by Anthony Hartigan caused chaos inside Charlton’s penalty area and was scruffily scraped clear to an unmarked Alex Woodward on the opposite wing. Another Don with boyhood Charlton connections, Woodward clipped a perfect cross to the far post, where Daniel Csoka rose unopposed to nod the visitors ahead. With no visiting supporters on hand to celebrate, a pin dropped inside The Valley was heard to reverberate in Woolwich.
The second half’s riotous assembly belonged totally to Bowyer’s Buccaneers. Trueman’s fine save to keep out Ben Watson’s volley staved off the inevitable, but the sheer intensity of Charlton’s onslaught began to overpower their bewildered victims, whose fate was sealed by the 53rd-minute introduction of substitutes Jonny Williams and Chuks Aneke. Williams performs with the enthusiasm of a football-daffy kid pleading for “next goal wins it” at twilight in a public park; Aneke was impossible to handle.
With considerable help from others, they tore Wimbledon to shreds. It took Charlton 20 unfeasible second half minutes to draw level through Jake Forster-Caskey, whose recent return to form was continued by his excellent contribution to this come-from-behind win. The busy midfielder was on hand to tap in the rebound after Aneke’s low shot was saved by Trueman, the spadework having been provided by Watson and Gunter.
One more minute and the Addicks were ahead to stay. a shrewd pass from the sublimely gifted Marcus Maddison sent Gunter to the right byline, where he provided a perfect cutback which the onrushing Williams swept into a gaping net. The Wombles were a wobbling mess by now but hung on until they were finished off by a pair of late goals. It was Aneke who dispelled fears of a second comeback by firing home the third goal from close range.
The coup-de-grace was applied when Ben Purrington became the third of Bowyer’s substitutes to score, scuffing home another rebound after Williams had hit the post. With due deference to its obvious flaws, this exhilarating performance stiffened the sinews and stirred the blood.
— Louis Mendez (@LouisMend) December 12, 2020
With that annoying horsing around at the back chucked in a bin, Charlton set about Wimbledon from whistle to whistle. The ball was moved quickly, they were direct when necessary, their finishing was uncharacteristically clinical.
The likes of Gillingham and Shrewsbury would have been brushed aside had this freewheeling attitude been unleashed on them. It’sall very well to respect your opposition, blah blah blah, but when that opposition is clearly inferior, token respect and a good hiding should be all they have coming.
Charlton are a good – potentially very good – League One side. They seem ready to impose their class and pedigree on the rest of the division. No sense in hiding lights under bushels. The secret’s out.
Charlton: Amos, Gunter, Pearce, Pratley, Maatsen, Watson, Forster-Caskey, Gilbey (Williams 53), Maddison (Purrington 84), Washington (Oshilaja 89), Bogle (Aneke 53). Subs not used: Maynard-Brewer, Matthews, Levitt.
AFC Wimbledon: Trueman, Csoka (Palmer 84), Woodyard, Thomas (Nightingale 71), Hartigan (Chislett 70), Rudoni (Reilly 70), McLoughlin, Heneghan, Longman, Pigott, Seddon. Subs not used: Tzanev, Alexander, Guinness-Walker.
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