Bolton manager Ian Evatt praised Aaron Collins after the 2-0 win at Bristol Rovers.

Following a hat-trick against Reading on Easter Monday, Collins opened the scoring against Rovers, the club he left on February 1, with a 52nd-minute dinked finish.

Cameron Jerome won a penalty in the seventh minute of second-half stoppage time to allow Aaron Morley to wrap up the victory and put Wanderers just a point off the League One automatic promotion spots.

“We lacked fluidity but we didn’t lack courage, desire and bravery – and it was a moment of real quality from Aaron which was exactly why we brought him in. A cool, calm finish,” explained Evatt.

“To be composed to lift it over the goalkeeper at that stage of the game with so much on the line for us was real quality and I’m pleased for him, with Cameron Jerome coming on in the final minutes to get us over the line.

“The most important thing was for us to win the game and we did that. We managed to be resolute. We dug in and did the hard yards at times. It was really difficult conditions out there, the wind really affected the game,” added Evatt, as Bolton won for the first time in seven away games.

Bristol Rovers were shut out for a sixth game in a row, having not scored since March 2.

However the Gas did play well and created enough chances to have taken something from the game, with Chris Martin’s stooping header clawed from off the goal-line, and Luke Thomas and Antony Evans both drawing good first-half saves from Nathan Baxter.

Rovers manager Matt Taylor pointed to his side’s inexperience, with no wins in Rovers’ last six games.

“It was harsh but yet another lesson learned in terms of the moment of the goals, it is just too poor from us in understanding what is needed at that moment,” he said.

“It’s young players involved and we know they make mistakes but we’re learning the hard way at the moment.

“I’ve got to be careful. That’s what happens when the inexperience factor is there.

“Too many times we’re defensively sound as a team and then suddenly we’re behind and chasing a game.”

Lincoln head coach Michael Skubala expects there to be many more “twists and turns” in the League One play-off race after his side let slip a 1-0 lead late on to draw 1-1 at lowly Reading.

Lincoln, now unbeaten in 16 matches, went ahead much against the run of play in the 72nd minute, when substitute Freddie Draper nodded in a cross from Sean Roughan.

But Reading deservedly levelled seven minutes from the end, with defender Tyler Bindon heading in a corner from Lewis Wing from close range.

“All in all, it was a fair point,” Skubala said. “But I keep saying it, there are many more twists and turns to come.

“Reading have been great at home so, to come here and get a point, I’m pleased with that.

“I think it is probably a fair scoreline, when you look at it over the 90 minutes, though maybe a little bit disappointing for us after being 1-0 up.

“We wanted to see it out and we’ve been good recently with set-pieces [at defending them]. So that’s a bit disappointing as well.

“We have high standards, we want to win games and we came here to win.

“We started the game fast and had a couple of chances but then it settled for Reading. We were getting pulled about a little bit in the press.

“But in the second half, when we tidied things up, we looked the better team. And when we went 1-0 up, it felt calm.

“Okay, a set-piece has done us. But we go again, we keep fighting. I always say to the lads: ‘If you can’t win it, don’t lose it’.”

Reading remain six points clear of the relegation zone.

“That was one of our best performances of the season,” Reading manager Ruben Selles said.

“We dominated the action, we dominated the possession.

“Maybe we made a few mistakes in the build-ups but we were aggressive and always tried to play our game.

“We found ourselves behind, in just one action, but we showed character.

“We need to continue working and be more ruthless with the finishing in the final third because I think that we should have been in front before they scored.

“It is only a matter of time before we learn how to do that, to be ruthless, so that we can move on to the next level.

“We created situations and I think that we now have a pure identity. We just need to continue evolving that.

“I think we did enough to win and I thought we controlled every part of the game today. Overall, it was a good performance.”

Manager Paul Simpson admits Carlisle have “fallen well short” after his side’s relegation from League One was officially confirmed by Saturday’s 2-0 defeat at Northampton.

A long way adrift at the bottom, Carlisle’s immediate return to League Two has looked inevitable for some time and their fate was duly sealed by goals from Kieron Bowie and Ali Koiki at a blustery Sixfields.

“It’s obviously a huge disappointment but the relegation isn’t on today, it’s on the whole season,” said Simpson.

“We had all of the excitement of the promotion last season but unfortunately we haven’t been able to follow it up and we have fallen well short.

“What we have to do now is regroup, have a look into what’s gone wrong and make sure we come back stronger and better next season and that’s the challenge going into the summer.”

Reflecting on the game itself, Simpson added: “It’s such a poor first goal to concede. We spoke about it and we worked on it about getting in early because they’ve got good delivery from set-pieces but we switch off and we allow them the first contact and they bundle it in.

“It wasn’t a great game and the conditions didn’t make it easy with the wind but it’s the story of our season because we started the game well and we got into good areas but we didn’t score when we were on top and then we conceded a poor goal.

“Now we need to make sure we get a strong group together so we can bounce back straightaway next season.”

Northampton are now up to 59 points, their second-highest points haul in the third tier this century.

“It’s a really good achievement and it’s testament to the players and their attitude,” said Cobblers boss Jon Brady.

“The wind and the conditions made it quite a turgid game today and it was hard for both teams.

“We actually wanted to win the toss and turn it around so we’d have the wind behind us but obviously we lost it and we had to go against the wind.

“The first half was really difficult and we couldn’t get out but we were gritty and determined and it was great to get the result.

“You feel for Carlisle, before the game you have to be focused and there’s no room for any sympathy but I had a chat with Paul Simpson afterwards and they are a good club with good people.

“We have similar budgets so it shows how well we’ve done and it’s taken a lot of hard work from everyone.”

Blackpool boss Neil Critchley hailed match-winner Sonny Carey as his side kept their outside hopes of a play-off finish alive with a 1-0 win over Cambridge.

Carey scored the game’s only goal with a superb curled finish after half an hour to leave the Seasiders six points off sixth-placed Oxford with four games remaining.

The home side passed up a number of other chances to make it more comfortable but Critchley was pleased with the way his side broke down a resolute Cambridge defence, with United scrapping for survival in League One.

“I thought we were good in the first half against a team who are defensive,” he said. “That’s how they’ve got their results lately, by defending deep.

“You have to be patient, work your openings, work the play and we did that. We produced quality that we haven’t produced in games recently.

“It was nice to see Sonny pass it into the bottom corner. That’s the quality he’s got.

“In the second half, we deteriorated, got a bit edgy and we needed the second goal to calm us down. We didn’t get it.

“They had a moment where they hit the post on the break, but we got over the line so I’ll take that.

“In the second half, we had loads of situations where we win the ball back and we failed in that final pass. Maybe we were lacking a bit of confidence or there was a bit of anxiety.”

Blackpool welcome neighbours Fleetwood to Bloomfield Road on Tuesday before travelling to already-relegated Carlisle, results which could have big implications for Garry Monk’s Cambridge.

The U’s sit five points above the drop zone with five games left to play but Monk was encouraged by his side’s second-half performance, which saw Gassan Ahadme and Elias Kachunga both go close to rescuing a precious point on the road.

He said: “In the first half they made it difficult for us. We weren’t quite dealing with wide areas where they were moving their central players out wide. They overloaded us there and it pinned us back a little bit, but we still defended well.

“At half-time, we spoke about that and needing to show a bit more composure on the ball. There were moments where we could have shown more composure, but in the second half we did just that.

“The second-half performance I was really proud of, we were so close to getting our just rewards. I was really pleased with the second half, I thought it was a good response to going a goal behind and we were unlucky not to come away with a point.

“In the second half, I thought we were the better team. We built attacks better, and nearly came away with a point.”

Barnsley manager Neill Collins was frustrated with the performance of the referee in a controversial 2-1 loss at Charlton as the Tykes were defeated on the road for the first time since November.

After two excellent goals from Alfie May had twice given Charlton the lead either side of an Adam Phillips penalty, a feisty second period saw a Fabio Jalo volley ruled out for a tight offside.

“We should have been sitting here with a point,” said Collins. “But we’re not because of a poor decision at the end of the game. He’s a yard onside, so I’m really disappointed with that.”

The visitors also had a shout for a penalty before the one they were awarded in the first half, when Devante Cole and Michael Hector tangled legs.

“It’s a stonewall penalty,” Collins added. “Devante goes through, he’s about to shoot, he gets bundled over. How he didn’t get that, I’m not quite sure.”

The Barnsley boss did concede that his side had the chances to win the game: “At half-time we should have been in the lead. But we weren’t because of missed opportunities.

“(Cole) is going through a little period right now. I’m sure it will be a matter of time before he’s putting them in the back of the net.

“Alfie May showed why he’s the top goalscorer in the league, with two great finishes. We’ve got players who are capable of doing that, but today we probably passed up too many good opportunities, and Charlton were pretty clinical.”

Charlton manager Nathan Jones was also quick to praise his forward.

“Alfie took his chances really well,” he said. “On the counter we were a constant threat and could have had more.”

“It’s an absolutely massive three points for us. A really good performance.

“They’re in the play-offs, they score goals freely, they’ve got one of the best away records. So for us to win the game, we’re delighted.”

After a winter spent just above the relegation zone, Jones has steadied the ship.

“I never take anything for granted but we’re not looking at that. All we want to do is keep moving forward,” he said.

Asked about what it takes to turn a club’s fortunes around so quickly, Jones gave a remarkably honest answer.

“Every part of your life. Literally every part of your life,” he said. “I live away from family. Anyone who works at the football club knows the hours we do, knows what we watch, knows how we prepare, knows how meticulous we are on every aspect of what we do.

“How we eat, how we sleep. If you want to raise standards then you have to set those standards, you have to live those standards.”

Oxford produced an attacking masterclass to down strugglers Burton 4-0 at the Pirelli Stadium and boss Des Buckingham thoroughly enjoyed himself as his side returned to the League One play-off places.

Mark Harris’ double alongside goals from Josh Murphy and James Henry left Buckingham delighted.

“A very enjoyable evening,” Buckingham said. “Four goals again and starting to show that cutting edge that was missing for a little bit, but we knew that would come and now it is about making sure that we continue through.”

Oxford seem to be timing their run well but with three home games against fellow promotion contenders to come in the next week Buckingham knows that levels have to remain high.

“It was always going to click, and it was only a matter of time before we did. Now whether it is Peterborough, Stevenage or Lincoln in the next six days we need to take today into there,” he added.

On Harris, he said: “He is getting towards his target, and we will try and get him past it if we can. He was very calm for the first goal and still had half the pitch to run and take the keeper on but he has Josh Murphy on one side and Owen Dale on the other creating space and opportunities for him.

“Mark is reaping the rewards of the hard work he is putting in but also the work of those around him.”

Defeat for Burton extended their winless run to 10 games and saw them drop into the bottom four, leaving boss Martin Paterson taking responsibility for results but blasting an “unprofessional” performance from his side.

“It lands on me as the manager,” Paterson said. “I accept full responsibility for that performance which was unprofessional in my opinion.

“From every single attacking set-play we were transitioned, and they were in our box to look like they would score, and we allowed a team who I had identified as being dangerous in transition to do that and it beggars belief really.

“We seem to have a massive issue playing at home at the moment. The players look scared, and it shows.

“We started playing and passing it at 4-0 down because the pressure is off, but it is bitterly disappointing to see a performance like that.”

Stevenage manager Steve Evans says his side will not give up the fight for a Sky Bet League One play-off place despite going down to a 1-0 defeat at Exeter.

An error by goalkeeper Taye Ashby-Hammond, who saw his clearance charged down by Exeter striker Sonny Cox and finished off by Reece Cole, led to the only goal of the game and the defeat leaves Evans’ men six points adrift of the play-off places with four games remaining.

“It’s a harsh result,” he said. “The goalkeeper has made a huge error, he got away with it twice with a lack of focus, lack of concentration. He’s been very good for us, but that wasn’t his normal self today.

“We are chasing the game then, but we create wonderful chances. (Alex) McDonald is through one-on-one and puts it in the keeper’s arms; Jamie Reid, who has been phenomenal for us, misses what you’d call a simple header and we have had two or three off the line.

“We have dominated the whole second half and it is disappointing, but it is not just today where we have dropped out of the play-off race, it’s been over four or five weeks because if you don’t score goals, you don’t win football matches.

“Football is a strange game and if someone had said to me when I joined this football club two years ago we will be five games from the end of season at Exeter and disappointed not to put yourself back in the play-off group in League One, you’d have thought you’re in dreamland. But when you have achieved something, you always want more.”

Exeter boss Gary Caldwell was delighted as his side moved into the top half and, with 54 points, they are all but certain of playing League One football again next season when things looked much bleaker for the Grecians just before Christmas.

“It takes time and fortunately, this football club understands that because this season has not been a linear process, there have been highs and lows and I think if you give people who are working extremely hard the time to make it happen, then you can see the results,” Caldwell said.

“I did my pro licence with Steve Evans, I know how competitive he is, how many promotions he has won and he always builds successful teams and they have had an incredible season.

“We knew we were in for a tough day and had to stand up to their physicality and they are pushing for a lot in terms of what they can achieve this campaign, but I thought we stood up to it and our character, our determination and our team spirit was incredible.

“But we have to be better. There are areas of our game where we have to improve and recognise where the space is, where the free player is. But to be able to do that from a winning position is far better than losing, so full credit to the players for that.”

Darrell Clarke admitted it had been a frustrating afternoon for the visitors after his Cheltenham side suffered a 3-1 defeat at Leyton Orient to leave them two points from safety in the Sky Bet League One relegation zone.

Ethan Galbraith and Ollie O’Neill left the visitors chasing the game with first-half goals before Orient’s leading scorer Ruel Sotiriou ended his nine-match barren run with a superb strike late on.

Substitute Joe Nuttall reduced the deficit with a goal in the final minute of stoppage time but Clarke was left to ponder the uphill struggle ahead if his team are to avoid the drop.

“We started the game quite well, particularly in the first 20 minutes, but then we conceded two goals from outside the box that really we could have done better by getting closer at the edge of the box and blocking the shots,” Clarke said.

“I was frustrated at half-time and looking for solutions to the problems we had in the first half and try to get the next goal because the game is not over at 2-0. I think if we had taken our chances and got that next goal, we would have kicked on. It’s all ifs, buts and maybes and now we have to go again.

“Probably the last two or three games have been 45-minute performances and we need to start putting 90-minute performances together.

“I’ve just said to the players, ‘we’re still in this race’, we kept going to the end and I believe there is enough in there to keep us in this division, albeit not on today’s showing.

“I will make sure I get the right answers for the team but we will have to perform better than we did today.”

O’s boss Richie Wellens saw his side collect maximum points at home for the first time in four matches.

“We missed the easier chances today with a couple of one-on-ones and could have scored a few more goals but we also scored three excellent finishes,” he said.

“I thought the keeper should have saved Galbraith’s goal but O’Neill’s goal was good and so was Sotiriou’s. I wasn’t happy with him to be honest because he was a bit sulky and his reactions weren’t great but I know he has a goal in him.

“That game should have been more comfortable than it was but we lacked discipline and gave opportunities away. They could have scored four goals today. I was disappointed we conceded to the one at the end because we wanted the clean sheet.

“This is the first game we’ve played when we can’t achieve anything but we respect the league and the teams fighting, so we played a strong team as well as given Zech Obiero a start at 18 years old, so overall it was a good day.”

Portsmouth manager John Mousinho saluted two-goal Colby Bishop as the league leaders moved to the brink of sealing promotion with a 3-1 win at home to Shrewsbury.

Top-scorer Bishop took his tally for the season to 20 to give Pompey the chance to secure a return to the Championship after a 12-year absence at Bolton next weekend.

Mousinho: “It’s a fantastic achievement for Colby to get 20 goals in successive seasons. He hasn’t played every game, so what he has achieved is brilliant.

“The result is the most important thing but the performance is important as well.

“With Peterborough and Derby not playing today, it gave us a chance to push on and extend the lead at the top. It wasn’t in spectacular fashion but we got the job done.

“I don’t think we played particularly well to be honest. We started well by getting the early goal but we became sloppy. We were slightly better in the second half but I think we were a bit jaded from Tuesday’s game. It was a difficult game to bounce back from.

“If you would have offered me a win having not played well, I would have taken it.”

Pompey took the lead after only three minutes when Conor Shaughnessy crossed from the left and Shrews skipper Chey Dunkley could only put the ball into his own net.

Shrewsbury levelled after 29 minutes when a break on the left saw the ball reach an unmarked Jordan Shipley in the box and he easily beat home goalkeeper Will Norris.

Pompey regained the lead three minutes before half time from the penalty spot after clever play by Kusini Yengi resulted in him being brought down and Bishop converted.

Shrewsbury played the second half with more purpose but Pompey finished the job off with 14 minutes remaining when Bishop slammed home from 10 yards.

Shrews boss Paul Hurst said: “To get a result, you must put your chances away.

“We had a game plan, which after three minutes we were thinking ‘do we tear it up’, but we had to make sure that we didn’t concede again.

“There was always the thought that we were going to be blown away but they didn’t perhaps play as they wanted to.

“I genuinely thought we would get something from the game but a soft penalty for them saw us going in at half time a goal down instead of level.

“The penalty was a terrible decision. If that had been at the other end, it wouldn’t have been given, trust me. An experienced referee got it wrong. It was an easy decision for him to make.”

Port Vale moved out of the Sky Bet League One drop zone thanks to a goalless draw at Wigan.

The home side came close to scoring with their first attack, as Matt Smith’s shot took a huge deflection off Thelo Aasgaard, completely wrong-footing Connor Ripley, only for the ball to sail inches past a post.

Former Wigan man Gavin Massey then had a great chance to mark his return to the DW Stadium with a goal, only to be thwarted by England Under-21 stopper Sam Tickle.

Smith’s deliveries were causing concern for Ripley, who had to act smartly to take the ball off Aasgaard’s feet, before tipping another cross round a post.

Martial Godo hit a post as Wigan pushed further, with substitute Charlie Kelman unable to force home the rebound.

But Vale finished the stronger and almost nicked it in the closing stages.

Tom Sang headed wide from an unmarked position, before Tickle parried out a deflected shot from James Plant, and did even better to divert the rebound from Baylee Dipepa past a post.

Alfie May’s double for Charlton secured a 2-1 win over play-off hopefuls Barnsley at The Valley.

May broke the deadlock with a tremendous free-kick in the 20th minute to fire Charlton ahead.

Adam Phillips grabbed an equaliser for Barnsley eight minutes later from the penalty spot following a handball by Kayne Ramsay.

But, after a dreadful miss from inside the six-yard box by Devante Cole, the Addicks regained the lead in the 40th minute when May curled in a shot from the left corner of the box following a clever dummy by George Dobson.

Chuks Aneke missed a 94th-minute penalty for Charlton after Liam Roberts fouled Tyreece Campbell, and Barnsley assistant coach Jon Stead was sent off for dissent a minute later.

Defeat left Barnsley with two wins from seven matches and Cole wihtout a goal in 12. But the Tykes still only need seven points from their last five games to guarantee a play-off spot.

The Addicks have now gone 11 games without defeat.

Leyton Orient found their shooting boots to inflict a 3-1 Sky Bet League One defeat on relegation-haunted Cheltenham.

A dull opening period was lifted in the 34th minute by a superb Ethan Galbraith strike. Collecting a pass from George Moncur, he drilled a 25-yard drive past the despairing dive of goalkeeper Luke Southwood.

The visitors, who showed little going forward before the interval and failed to record a shot on target in the first half, fell further behind 10 minutes later. Ollie O’Neill, always a threat to the Robins, cut inside from the left and delivered a sublime shot that curled into the far corner.

Finding more purpose after the interval, Cheltenham soon squandered a marvellous opportunity to reduce the deficit when O’s stopper Sol Brynn dropped a set-piece at the feet of Curtis Davies, who managed to screw the ball wide from four yards out.

Ruel Sotiriou completed the visitors’ miserable afternoon in the 85th minute when he pounced from 18 yards out to notch his 11th league goal of the season before Joe Nuttall bagged a late consolation for the Robins.

Mark Harris’ double helped push Oxford back into the League One play-off places as they ruthlessly beat Burton 4-0 at the Pirelli Stadium.

A long throw from Tom Hamer into the Oxford box was cleared and, when Tolaji Bola misjudged his header on halfway, Harris was able to race away, round keeper Max Crocombe and slot home midway through the first half.

The Welsh striker continued to torment the Brewers defence, adding a second early in the second half by bundling the ball in from eight yards out.

Josh Murphy grabbed a well-deserved goal shortly afterwards, driving from his own half to score on the counter-attack.

And, as Albion’s defence capitulated, substitute James Henry added a fourth from inside the box, dispossessing Ryan Sweeney before firing into the bottom corner.

The margin of defeat pushed Albion into the bottom four on goal difference after Port Vale’s point at Wigan.

Colby Bishop’s double helped a below-par Portsmouth beat Shrewsbury 3-1 to move another step closer to promotion.

Table-topping Pompey started with two centre forwards and the early pressure paid dividends when they took the lead on three minutes.

Conor Shaughnessy crossed from the left and Shrews skipper Chey Dunkley could only put the ball into his own net.

Pompey were in total control but their lethargic and scrappy play produced little.

Shrewsbury took advantage and equalised on 29 minutes. A break on the left saw the ball reach an unmarked Jordan Shipley in the box and he easily beat home goalkeeper Will Norris.

Conceding seemed to wake Pompey up and they regained the lead three minutes before half time from the penalty spot.

Clever play by Kusini Yengi resulted in him being brought down and top scorer Bishop converted.

Shrewsbury played the second half with more purpose but Pompey finished the job off with 14 minutes remaining when Bishop slammed home from 10 yards.

Victory left Pompey nine clear of third-placed Bolton with four games remaining.

Aaron Collins returned to haunt his former club Bristol Rovers as promotion hopefuls Bolton won 2-0 at the Memorial Stadium.

The 26-year-old striker scored in the 52nd minute as his right-footed chipped finish sailed over the onrushing Jed Ward and into the Pirates’ goal following a George Thomason pass.

Rovers had enjoyed their best spell of an even contest just before their nominated player of last season netted on a windy afternoon in Bristol.

Connor Taylor was adjudged to have fouled Cameron Jerome with a minute of stoppage time left to play, and substitute Aaron Morley sealed the win by converting the resulting spot-kick.

The Gas went close to scoring when Nathan Baxter clawed Chris Martin’s diving header from off his goal-line a minute after the restart.

Baxter also saved low at his near post to deny both Luke Thomas and Antony Evans in the first half, as Rovers made it six games without a goal, and the visitors won a first away game in seven matches.

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