A LATE Sam Baldock goal ensured Dons continued their great run of form with a 2-0 victory over play-off rivals Charlton on Tuesday night.
After a quiet first half, Daniel Powell took over as the club’s leading scorer for the season after some good work from substitute Baldock, before the pair combined deep into stoppage time to extend Charlton’s winless streak to six games.
Stephen Hughes was, as expected, handed his first start at the expense of the suspended Peter Leven, while Sean O’Hanlon served the final game of his two-match ban.
In fairly balanced opening, it was Dons who looked the more controlled in possession. While Charlton had a couple of over hit through passes, it was Rowan Vine who was the first to test keeper Ross Worner with a curling right-footed effort from outside the box, but the Addicks’ stopper was a match for it, diving comfortably to his left.
Chris Powell’s men were without a win in five, and a defensive mix up between Worner and former Don Miguel Llera nearly gave Vine a glance at an open goal to compile their misery, but the ball spun away from him at the vital moment.
As with their previous two encounters this season, the game was light on gilt-edged chances. Llera out-jumped his man to win a header from a Charlton corner which was comfortably dealt with by Danny Woodards, but the visitors hardly made David Martin work in the opening 45 minutes.
And while Worner was not given an awful lot more to do than his Dons counterpart, he was certainly kept on his toes as Dons set up shop in the Charlton half. However, both sides went in level at the break, with neither really looking like taking the lead or deserving to do so.
With Dons in need of something different to break down Charlton, Baldock was introduced four minutes into the second half at the expense of Keanu Marsh-Brown who limped down the tunnel. The Fulham youngster produced spells of magic in the first half, but the away side often doubled-up on him, preventing him from creating much.
But Baldock was immediately in on the action, and was instrumental in giving Dons the lead on 55 minutes. After brilliantly turning away from Llera, he passed square across the edge of the penalty area to Hughes, who appeared to miss-control the ball, but in fact laid off it off perfectly Luke to Chadwick. The midfielder side-stepped one challenge and 12 yards out, neatly slipped it wide to Powell who blasted a low shot across Worner into the bottom corner for his third goal in four games - eight for the season.
Baldock was again in the thick of the action, this time firing a shot in on goal from outside the box, but it was straight down Worner’s throat.
The goal then kicked Charlton into gear, as they began playing some slick, attractive football deep in Dons territory. However, they created very little as a result.
Vine should have put the game beyond doubt with 18 minutes remaining. After a great break and exchange of passes with Baldock, Vine was clear through on goal but his shot was well charged down out by Worner.
Charlton threw on January signing Bradley Wright-Phillips with 15 minutes remaining, and Vine was replaced by Jabo Ibehre as the main target man for Dons.
The visitors continued to press forward, but were restricted to shots from range. Both Therry Racon and Jose Semedo saw shots fly well over the crossbar, while Wright-Phillips also had a dangerous looking shot blocked by Woodards.
Racon was lucky to remain out of the referee’s book after two silly fouls in quick succession, with the latter leading to a Dons free-kick on the edge of the area with three minutes remaining. Captain Dean Lewington stepped up and confidently curled the ball around the wall. With Worner beaten, his shot came back off the post and dropped to the ideal candidate in Baldock - but from two yards out he incredibly sent the ball high into the stand.
The drama wasn’t over though as Paul Benson, who remained largely anonymous throughout the game, lunged in dangerously on Stephen Gleeson, earning him a straight red card and compiling the misery on Chris Powell’s side.
Martin made an excellent finger-tip save to send Jenkinson’s free-kick over the crossbar in stoppage time. And from the resultant corner, Dons doubled their lead.
Powell charged down Christian Dailly and comfortably had the pace over the defender as he broke into the Charlton half. With Baldock in support, Powell unselfishly laid off to the substitute, but found the ball immediately back at his own feet from the return ball. However, as Charlton rushed back, Powell once more found Baldock in the area, and he neatly chipped over Worner to ensure the away side left with nothing to show for their efforts.
The result sees Dons remain in sixth place in League One, but the breathing space to Leyton Orient below them is now eight points.
Referee: Keith Stroud Attendance: 7,026
Dons: Martin, Lewington (c), Doumbe, MacKenzie, Woodards, Gleeson, Hughes, Chadwick (Chicksen, 81), Marsh-Brown (Baldock, 49), Powell, Vine (Ibehre, 74). Subs not used: Searle, Stirling, Guy, Flanagan.
Charlton: Worner, Francis, Llera, Semedo, Wagstaff, Racon, Reid (Ecclestone, 82), McCormack (Wright-Phillips, 74), Benson, Jenkinson, Dailly. Subs not used: Stavrinou, Fry, Solly, Fortune, Etheride
Booked: Llera. Sent off: Benson