George Jones reports from Stadium:mk
Charlton’s disappointing winless run continued on Tuesday evening as they suffered a 1-0 defeat against Milton Keynes Dons at Stadium:mk.
Dean Bowditch struck the clash’s decisive blow on 29 minutes, punishing the Addicks for not making the most of their bright start to the game and they were unable to find an equaliser after that.
Jordan Cousins came closest for the visitors early on, with Tony Watt also forcing home stopper David Martin into action in the second period.
Charlton goalkeeper Stephen Henderson made a number of fine stop in the second period, notably from Nicky Maynard and Darren Potter, to prevent the Dons from extending their lead, and Charlton were also dealt two further setbacks after the break with Jordan Cousins and Johann Berg Gudmundsson both going off injured.
Interim Head Coach Karel Fraeye made three changes to the side that started at Middlesbrough on Saturday, with Conor McAleny, Tony Watt and Reza Ghoochannejhad replacing El-Hadji Ba, Karlan Ahearne-Grant and Simon Makienok.
There was also a place amongst the substitute bench for 18-year-old Ademola Lookman, the next step on the youngster’s impressive rise up the football ladder.
Just over 12 months ago he was playing Sunday-league football, having never been on the books of a professional club, but following a prolific year of finding the net for the club’s U18s and U21s sides, he was rewarded with his maiden appearance in a first-team squad.
A low, fizzed cross from Morgan Fox was cut out by former England international Matthew Upson to deny Watt of a shot on goal after six minutes, in what was the game’s opening chance.
The Addicks came within a whisker of breaking the deadlock less than 60 seconds later. Gudmundsson fed possession into the feet of Watt, who, in turn, teed up Cousins. The energetic midfielder took one look up and aimed at goal, forcing home stopper David Martin to sprawl to his right and push his strike behind for a corner.
Charlton were on the front foot in the early stages and only a vital, headed interception from Jordan Spence prevented Ghoochannejhad’s chipped through ball from sending McAleny through on goal.
A brief spill from Stephen Henderson gave the Dons hope of poking a loose ball into the net, though the goalkeeper quickly recovered, and a whipped set-piece from Josh Murphy provided the home side with their next opening, though it eluded everyone inside Charlton’s penalty area.
Murphy’s inviting cross was just too far ahead of the onrushing Maynard midway through the first period and, after the loose ball travelled all the way through the the right flank, Jordan Spence cut inside and saw his shot well blocked by Johnnie Jackson.
The hosts were now edging proceedings and they made their improvement count by taking the lead. A good passing move saw Samir Carruthers freed on the right and he sent in a low cross that Bowditch controlled with one touch before finishing with his next.
Charlton almost responded immediately. Watt robbed Anthony Kay on the left flank and drove into the penalty area, but he could only drag his shot wide.
At the other end, Maynard dipped a strike well wide of the target from 25 yards when he had more time to pick his spot but the Dons headed into the interval one goal in front.
A well-timed sliding tackle from Fox stopped Bowditch from having a clear sight of goal two minutes into the second period and a minute later a superb save from Stephen Henderson kept out Maynard, who had burst through one on one.
Home captain Dean Lewington stepped in to snuff out Ahearne-Grant after the substitute had been found on the right side of the penalty area by Gudmundsson.
Henderson dived to his right to hold onto Maynard’s curling effort on 52 minutes and opening goalscorer Bowditch then thumped the top of the crossbar from a narrow angle as Milton Keynes looked to increase their advantage.
The home side continued to threaten and Darren Potter aimed a strike at goal that Henderson had to tip over the top before Ghoochannejhad curled into the arms of Martin for Charlton.
A low centre from Murphy dropped for Bowditch inside the box on 62 minutes but his first-time strike was blocked by his own man in Maynard, as the Addicks escaped conceding a second.
There was a memorable moment for Lookman as the clash hit the three-quarter mark as he was introduced, and his side almost restored parity immediately. Ahearne-Grant flicked on to Watt, who chopped inside of Spence and fired at goal. Martin was able to dive to his left and hang on.
The lively Murphy smashed into the side netting after dropping his shoulder to breeze beyond the Charlton defence. At the other end, a lovely Gudmundsson corner was met by the head of Jackson, though Lewington, who positioned himself just in front of the goal line, was able to nod the Addicks skipper’s effort away.
Kay intercepted Ahearne-Grant’s cut-back after the youngster had done well to beat Hodson to the byline and the Addicks were dealt a blow seven minutes from time when Gudmundsson came off worse in a 50-50 tackle with Diego Poyet.
With all three substitutes having already been used, the Addicks had no choice but to see out the final minutes with 10 men.
MK Dons should have secured the points a minute after gaining their numerical advantage. Carl Baker slid the ball across the face of goal and, with just an empty net in front of him, substitute Simon Church somehow managed to scuff wide.
Poyet dragged off target soon afterwards and despite eight minutes of stoppage time being added 10-man Charlton could not get an equaliser.
MK Dons: Martin, Lewington, Upson (Hodson 39), Kay, Potter, Bowditch (Baker 72), Spence, Carruthers, Maynard (Church 77), Murphy, Poyet.
Subs (Not used): Cropper, Church, Gallagher, Powell, Hall.
Goals: Bowditch 29
Booked: Maynard 73 (foul on Bauer), Kay 87 (time wasting)
Charlton: Henderson, Solly, Diarra, Bauer, Fox, McAleny (Ahearne-Grant 46), Cousins (Makienok 61), Jackson, Gudmundsson, Watt, Ghoochannejhad (Lookman 65).
Subs (not used): Pope, Sarr, Holmes-Dennis, Ba.
Booked: Gudmundsson 16 (foul on Carruthers), Bauer 33 (foul on Maynard), Diarra 45 (foul on Maynard), Ghoochannejhad 51 (foul on Potter), Jackson 62 (handball)
Referee: A Davies