If you have Ricky Holmes, you always have hope.
Saturday’s derby had been a disjointed skirmish that suited AFC Wimbledon – heading for a hard-earned point on the road – down to the ground.
Charlton’s periods of actually getting the ball down and passing it had been few and far between.
Neal Ardley’s tactics had worked a treat as they prevented the home side from playing their natural game.
But as so often has been the case, Holmes was able to make the difference.
The Addicks number 11 had allowed Jake Forster-Caskey to take a first-half free-kick on the edge of the penalty area, largely due to the fact it more suited a left-footer, and his effort cleared the bar without any major palpitations for Wimbledon goalkeeper George Long.
But when Holmes was brought down on the left of the penalty area by Barry Fuller – a split second later and the Dons right-back would have conceded a spot-kick – there was only going to be on taker.
“I don’t know if it is a wonder goal or a mistake,” said Ardley post-match. And I kind of feel the same. Anyone who has watched Holmes for a period of time would have had a strong hunch he would go for goal, even if the angle was a tight one.
Andy Barcham and Jimmy Abdou made up a two-man wall but Holmes produced power, curl and a perfect trajectory to whip it beyond Long’s futile attempts to get a touch.
It seemed an effort which the on-loan Sheffield United stopper could – if not should – have kept out. But perhaps the speed of the strike added an extra layer of difficulty to the save.
It was Holmes’ fifth goal of the campaign and Charlton have not lost when he has been on the scoresheet this season.
The Addicks are unbeaten in seven matches and if they win their game in hand can move to within three points of second-placed Wigan Athletic.
What is interesting is that Charlton have not been able to really put away sides in SE7, with the exception of a 4-1 victory over Northampton in August. Twelve teams have scored more at home, but only three can better the Addicks’ goal total on the road.
This was a third 1-0 success in South London, but one that did not look like coming when you took into account the way in which the derby passed without incident.
Rarely will the Addicks create less and Wimbledon actually had a great chance to break the deadlock shortly before Holmes’ winner. Deji Oshilaja, promoted to the team due to Will Nightingale dropping out with a hamstring strain, showed composure to control the ball inside the hosts’ penalty area but then produced a shot befitting of his centre-back status.
Even late on there was a moment of fortune for Charlton. George Francomb’s cross was met by the head of Addicks skipper Chris Solly, the ball clipping the crossbar with Ben Amos a spectator.
Forster-Caskey also made a couple of vital defensive blocks, hurling himself in front of Liam Trotter’s strike as well as getting his head to Callum Kennedy’s free-kick.
The first 45 minutes contained even less drama. Tariqe Fosu was largely contained – not being allowed to collect the ball and pick up a head of steam with dribbles – but he did produce one cross late in the half which did not fall for a Charlton team-mate.
Lyle Taylor managed to get behind Ezri Konsa to collect Andy Barcham’s pass but his first-time hit did not force Amos into action.
Wimbledon’s preparations were not aided by Nightingale making himself unavailable on Friday while Harry Forrester – behind a lot of their bright offensive play of late – missed out with a groin niggle.
Nine goals from 16 matches makes them the lowest scorers in the division. Saturday was their ninth blank in the 2017-18 season. Their issue is clear to anybody.
Taylor was played through the middle but was starved of any decent service. Ezri Konsa and Patrick Bauer were as dominant that end of the pitch over the lone striker as Darius Charles and Oshilaja were against Josh Magennis.
Quality tends to cost and Ardley continues to need to hunt the bargain basement bins in comparison to Robinson, who has assembled a Charlton side that look to be in the promotion mix for the long haul.
Speaking of the Addicks manager, he is set to get another lively reception when the reverse fixtures takes place on March 3.
There were numerous chants aimed in his direction by the 1,357 travelling Dons and Robinson opted against diplomacy afterwards.
“I know people at MK **** will be very happy with that result,” he said. “I can go for a pint where I live tonight and they’ll be very happy.
“I was quite happy. Keep having a go. That means their players aren’t getting any support, and the manager and the staff. Them having a go helped us.”
Robinson had security for the 1-1 draw at the Cherry Red Records Stadium in February. The enmity was never likely to wane due to his past footballing connection, but the Liverpudlian’s comments will ensure he is again a focus in the return.