Football: Valley left in deep shadow

Wimbledon 2 Euell 33, Hughes 51 Charlton Athletic 1 Redfearn 29 Half-time: 1-1 Attendance: 19,106
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The Independent Online
WIMBLEDON ADDED to the gloom in The Valley with this sixth consecutive defeat for Charlton, who are starting to misplace their will as well as their way as the post-promotion zest ebbs.

Wimbledon were themselves in search of redemption after a limp loss at Southampton and they achieved it, comfortably enough in the end, against opponents who led briefly but then ran out of steam and ideas.

It was a hoofing contest in dire conditions, swirling wind and heavy rain, and a celebratory airing of the Dam Busters March whenever Wimbledon score is appropriate. They may have abandoned the aerial approach but that the odd bouncing bomb doesn't go amiss was aptly demonstrated yesterday.

The battling Neil Redfearn, Charlton's only pounds 1m signing, was thoroughly at home on a pitch which chopped up rapidly, and in eight minutes he became the first of four bookings.

Steve Jones, replacing Clive Mendonca (who was "rested" and was not even on the bench), threw himself about up front for Charlton to unsettling effect, his gallop through the middle ending with a fierce shot which Neil Sullivan parried for a corner.

Wimbledon, struggling to put their game together, were pushed further out of their stride after 29 minutes with a gem of a goal from Redfearn. Having exchanged passes with Chris Powell beyond the left edge of the area, he cut inside on to his right foot and bent a looping shot into the far side, leaving Sullivan stranded, slack-jawed and helpless.

As the fans roared in delight, Mark Kinsella induced more anxiety, his robust effort striking the side netting. Had that hit the target, who knows how it might have ended, but within five minutes of the goal Wimbledon pulled level. Marcus Gayle prodded a pass into the path of Euell, who controlled it beautifully to drive a half-volley past Sasa Ilic.

Redfearn's non-stop energy made him Charlton's best performer, but the man of the match was Michael Hughes, who is playing through a long-term groin problem which will need an operation. Hughes is a low-level raider as opposed to a dam buster, possessing what people like to call an educated left foot, which gave lessons in the art of passing well on an uneven surface as Wimbledon steadily got a grip on things.

There was one last serious scare for Wimbledon at the start of the second half as the persistent Jones saw his cross deflected to Shaun Newton, who was too surprised by his luck.

Five minutes later Wimbledon were in front. A ball- bobbling session in Charlton's area ended with the worst possible scenario: Hughes in space. His waist-high volley went inside Ilic's left-hand upright.

Sullivan plunged to his left to keep out a Richard Rufus header and as Charlton upped the pace he had to make one more decent stop, low down after John Robinson's weaving run. In injury time, Sullivan was booked for wasting time, which was unnecessary against a club which after nine games without a win are officially in peril of returning whence they came.