Michael Skubala hailed the character of his Lincoln side after they came from behind to win 2-1 at Cheltenham and move into the League One play-off places with one game left.

Relegation battlers Cheltenham led through Liam Sercombe’s early penalty, but Joe Taylor levelled before half-time and Freddie Draper won it seven minutes after the break.

The Imps’ top six destiny is in their own hands, with a home match against champions Portsmouth to finish, while Cheltenham’s place in the third tier is now hanging by a thread.

“We knew it was going to be tough coming here,” Skubala said.

“We know how much they were fighting for every point so they could stay up.

“They started the game brighter than us and we didn’t begin it as ourselves.

“In the second half we came out and blew them away a little bit and could have probably scored more.

“It was a brilliant second half and everyone worked hard, digging deep to get those points.

“The 1,000-plus fans really got behind the team and pushed us on when we were 1-0 down.

“It really counted and helped us get back into the game. They drove us on.

“The character of the group is amazing and if we looked back months ago to be told we’d be in a position where we’re sixth with the champions coming to our place to face us as we look to clinch a place in the play-offs we’d have all taken it. It’s up to us now.”

A midweek win at Burton had kept Cheltenham’s survival hopes alive but the defeat leaves them five points from safety with just two games left to play.

Manager Darrell Clarke is refusing to throw in the towel while survival remains a possibility.

“I am gutted, first of all, but we still have to try and take it to the last game of the season,” Clarke said.

“We have to win on Tuesday night (Peterborough at home) and then anything can happen in the last game (at Stevenage). We have to do that.

“We have to appreciate moments in the game today where we should score.

“In the first half we had some golden opportunities so to come in at half-time only 1-1 is disappointing because we’d opened them up a few times and the gameplan was working.

“The first half was the best we’ve played at home for a long time.

“I was then disappointed with the second half as a whole because we huffed and puffed, with players tiring.”

Lincoln moved into the play-off places with a 2-1 win at Cheltenham, whose League One future is now hanging by a thread.

The Imps have been resurgent under boss Michael Skubala, but they had to come from behind to take the points.

Cheltenham led through Liam Sercombe’s early penalty, but Joe Taylor levelled before half-time and Freddie Draper won it seven minutes after the break.

A midweek win at Burton had kept Cheltenham’s survival hopes alive and their chances of avoiding the drop improved when Jordan Thomas was tripped by Danny Mandroiu in the box. Sercombe stepped up to fire home from the spot in the 15th minute for his 11th goal of the season.

Lincoln responded well and Taylor’s superb run down the left was eventually stopped in the box, but the ball found its way back to him and he applied a clinical finish in the 40th minute for his 22nd goal of the campaign.

Luke Southwood saved from Alex Mitchell early in the second half and also kept out an effort from Ben House, but he could do nothing to prevent Draper from scoring with a low finish in the 52nd minute.

James Olayinka saw a late effort blocked for Cheltenham and their defeat left them five points from safety with two games to play.

Lincoln boss Michael Skubala labelled as “unbelievable” his team’s crucial 1-0 win at Oxford.

The Imps kept their season alive with a resolute defensive performance and a victory thanks to Danny Mandroiu’s 47th-minute penalty after Ruben Rodrigues was adjudged to have fouled Ben House.

The win enabled Lincoln to leapfrog Blackpool into seventh place in League One, just two points behind Oxford with two games to go.

Skubala said: “We were unbelievable – we have a special group here. We played for the shirt, you could see that.

“I can’t really pick anyone out, we were collectively fantastic and I’m just so proud of them.

“We said to them before the start ‘let’s just keep it alive and then see what the pressure might do’ and we’ve done that.

“We knew we couldn’t come here and dominate the ball, Oxford have some very good players.

“But we thought we could catch them on the counter and hurt them and the players carried out the game plan to perfection.

“It was a great penalty from Danny Mandroiu. He was as cool as ice.

“The way we ran the clock down was perfect.”

Lincoln’s win came despite losing Reeco Hackett in only the fifth minute to a bad arm injury.

They also had substitute Dylan Duffy sent off for a second yellow card in the 83rd minute, when he fouled Marcus Browne, but the 10 men held out.

Oxford manager Des Buckingham was unhappy with the penalty award.

He said: “I’ve watched it back and it’s as clear as day…. Ruben Rodrigues won the ball.

“So, yes, I’ve got complaints about the penalty because it’s a key moment and in the end that’s what has decided the outcome of the game.

“I think we played well enough, especially in the first half, to feel we should have won the game – we created a couple of big opportunities.

“If we keep presenting opportunities like the ones to Tyler Goodrham and Mark Harris I’m sure they’ll take them.

“But we’d scored 13 goals in the last three games, maybe we had used up our share.

“We’re in a strong position with two games to go. So I’m not going to stand here and keep moaning about the penalty – we’ve just got to refocus for Stevenage at home on Friday night.

“I’m disappointed the performance here hasn’t given us the result because we definitely deserved to get something from this game.”

Michael Skubala admitted his play-off chasing Lincoln side were “distraught” after losing 2-1 to Wigan.

The Imps had three goals disallowed as their impressive 16-game unbeaten run, which stretched back to New Year’s Day, was ended by Latics at Sincil Bank.

Jonny Smith opened the scoring before Daniel Mandroiu levelled the scoring.

But Charlie Hughes’ stoppage-time strike was a dagger into Imps’ hearts in their play-off chase.

They are now five points behind Oxford ahead of a massive clash at the Kassam Stadium on Tuesday night.

“We’re gutted,” said Skubala. “We’re gutted because we know we wanted to keep trying to win.

“We wanted to throw everything at them. We started really slowly. We got into the ascendancy but we couldn’t get that second goal.

“These lads give everything. There’s nothing prouder than this run. We’re creaking a little bit because we haven’t got the numbers really.

“We had somebody come and give us the Peterborough score, so we decided to give it everything. We were happy to risk it to try and get another goal.

“We’ve been hurt because we’re trying to risk it to try and win the game.

“We’re gutted. The lads are distraught, but there are nine points to play for so we’ll go to Oxford and give it everything.

“We didn’t start like ourselves. We were nervous, we were tentative. Last 20 minutes we were ourselves and aggressive.

“It was the first time I’ve seen some nerves in the group. But it’s new to us. It’s understandable.”

Latics secured a first win in five to throw a spanner in the works of Lincoln’s play-off bid, and boss Shaun Maloney said: “It was a brilliant performance, in different ways as well.

“The first 30 minutes was as high a level as we’ve shown in a game this season.

“The first goal that we scored was top class. When you watch that first goal and the talent in that move it was a real joy to watch.

“I’m trying to build this team back up. I’ve been really honest with the team. The level did drop at Blackpool, but after that we’ve been top class.

“When we had to put bodies on the line, they did it. They went to the death and there were a few players really having to dig deep there at the end.

“The first goal was started by Charlie and was an amazing start of play and with any sort of strike he’s so clean when he hits the ball.

“I really challenged the players. With the season, we’ve achieved what we will achieve, but you still want to win, so I’m really pleased.”

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.”

Lincoln head coach Michael Skubala praised substitute Jovon Makama after his last-minute winner in their 1-0 Sky Bet League One victory over Leyton Orient propelled the Imps into the play-off places for the first time this season.

City were not at their best as Orient more than matched them, but they claimed the three points after Makama came on to score a dramatic late goal as they stretched their unbeaten run to 14 matches.

“Jovon is still learning and he has the profile and ability to do well and we know he has that finish in him,” said Skubala.

“I see him in training in every day and I known the quality he has.

“I am really pleased he came on he got the goal to help us get the three points.”

Skubala admitted the free-scoring Imps had had a battle on their hands, producing just two shots on target as they struggled to get the better of a lively-looking Orient side, backed by nearly 1,000 fans.

“It was a tough game for us and we had to scrap it out,” he said.

“We were struggling with the physicality, we were struggling with the wind and with the scrappiness. They played some nice football and it was one of those games when we had to grind it out.

“We weren’t great, but we know we have to have these types of games if we are to do well and scrap it out and fight for points.

“Our back line was phenomenal and it was a tough shift for them. The game is built on clean sheets and all round it was a resilient performance.”

After only mustering one shot on goal in the previous 90 minutes, Makama settled the contest when he blocked an attempted clearance, collected the ball and confidently curled a low shot into the bottom corner.

Orient head coach Richie Wellens felt the “best team lost” after seeing his side dominate possession and chances, only to fall to the late sucker punch.

He also as good as wrote off their play-off hopes, saying: “It was a big mistake at the end and the best team lost. I felt we nullified them and they weren’t really a threat.

“Up until the 90th minute they’d had one shot on our goal and it was a sickener to lose. I thought we were brilliant in the last 15 minutes and looked like the only team going to win it, but when you’re on the crest of a wave like they are, things go for you.

“I thought tactically we were better than them, but we’re lacking in the final third. We should have won it – we have lost two games against these now in the final minute. I feel for the players and supporters.

“The play-offs are all but gone now, but you never know. It’s going to be tough and we’re going to have win all our last six games.”

Lincoln boss Michael Skubala hailed his free-scoring side after they hammered Bristol Rovers 5-0.

The impressive Imps took their recent tally to 16 goals in three games with another fine display at Sincil Bank.

Luton loanee Joe Taylor will get the plaudits for a first professional hat-trick, sandwiched between captain Paudie O’Connor’s opener and Reeco Hackett’s late fifth.

Anthony Evans missed a penalty for the visitors, who had a man advantage for the last 15 minutes after Ethan Erhahon was sent off.

“We started well again,” said Skubala, whose side are two points off the play-off spots after a 13th game unbeaten.

“We talk about starting bright, starting fast, and we did that.

“I just said to the boys this is what we do. If you’re going to come and play us you have to be on it.

“Scoring five goals was fantastic. You saw us scoring goals, but we needed our keeper today. Big man Lukas was fantastic. Those are the things that don’t get mentioned when you score loads of goals.

“You saw his and Paudie’s quality today. As much as we talk about goals, we’re getting clean sheets as well. I thought those two were fantastic today.

“I don’t know how many Joe’s scored. I just like people scoring goals. Joe at the minute, his positioning in behind is fantastic.

“He’s improving all the time. That’s why he came here. He’s a real threat to anybody.”

Rovers boss Matt Taylor understandably cut a frustrated figure after his side were put to the sword.

He questioned his players’ desire with a number of them out of contract in the summer.

He said: “We started the game so poorly. There were some diabolical moments, defending for the goals.

“The script was set in terms of what to expect from them. It looked like some couldn’t match it and some looked like they didn’t have the mindset to match it.

“The first goal was embarrassing. Their goals are diabolical defending. They’re my responsibility.

“All I ask is they take more personal pride in their performance. That first half an hour was too poor a showing for me to accept.

“There’s a bigger picture which we all know about. Is that affecting some players on the pitch at the moment? You’re only damaging yourself if you play like that. You only damage yourself and damage your own futures.

“Clarity’s all I need going forward and that’s taught me a little bit more about some of the personality.

“It’s irrelevant about the chances we created. We’ve said so many times about being good about creating, but five goals against. It’s irrelevant.

“You can’t look like a good footballing side at times if you can’t do the basic fundamentals of defending a football game.”

Michael Skubala hailed his “ruthless” Lincoln side after they thrashed Cambridge 6-0 to extend their unbeaten Sky Bet League One run to 12 matches.

Braces apiece from Jack Moylan – his second in two games – and Joe Taylor, plus further strikes from subs TJ Eyoma and Dylan Duffy saw the Imps close to within three points of the play-off places.

“I thought we were ruthless from start to finish,” gushed Skubala. “I was very impressed and even at the end you could see how much these guys want to win.

“We’re a tough side to play against, we have a ruthless streak to us and the mentality of the group is fantastic at the moment.

“We talk about starting the game quickly, making sure we’re on the front foot and credit to the lads, they did that really well. I thought there were some brilliant performances out there to a man.

“We need to keep our feet on the ground, though. We haven’t cracked it. We have to do it game by game and go again. It’s going to be really tough game on Saturday against Bristol Rovers.

“But we’re putting a marker down and if anyone slips up, we’ll be there.”

Moylan fired City into the lead after just three minutes. Sean Roughan’s cross into the box fell to Lasse Sorensen initially, but the ball eventually found its way to the Irishman who smashed a shot high into the roof of the net.

Moylan doubled the lead after 25 minutes, confidently slotting a low shot past Jack Stevens after a delightful Ethan Erhahon pass.

It took the Imps just three minutes of the second half to go 3-0 up, with Danny Mandroiu’s sublime ball across United’s area finding an unmarked Taylor who had the easy job of steering the ball into the net.

City added a fourth after 75 minutes when Moylan’s brilliant through ball set up Taylor to dink a shot over Stevens and into the net.

Eyoma then fired home after Teddy Bishop’s shot was initially blocked before Duffy rammed a shot through Stevens’ legs to complete the rout.

It was a humbling experience for Cambridge boss Garry Monk in only his second match in charge.

“I am hugely frustrated, I did not expect that all,” admitted Monk. “I expected us to build off the back of an OK performance last Saturday.

“It was just self-inflicted – all those goals were very poor ones to concede. You can’t concede goals how we did tonight. You might see one or two of them conceded like that, but not four or five.

“We made far too many mistakes. We rather gifted them a lot of their goals and the performance has given me some food for thought.

“I need to think a bit more what we need to do away from home. Once a couple of the goals went in, we were a bit tepid after that. We were a yard or two off it.

“We played against a good side, but we made it easy for them.”

Lincoln head coach Michael Skubala praised his side’s intensity as they secured an emphatic 5-1 victory over promotion-chasing Barnsley at Oakwell.

Joe Taylor opened the scoring before Jack Moylan (2), Daniel Mandriou and Jovon Makama added second-half goals.

Adam Phillips pulled one back for the hosts, but they could not push for a comeback.

Skubala said: “We started the game really well; we started the game really bright. Our press was a little bit different to try and deal with Barnsley’s way of playing.

“I thought second half we were bang on.

“What pleased me today was, the whole team was connected. We were really good out of possession, we were aggressive when we needed to be aggressive, we didn’t give second balls up.

“Our energy and intensity was a little bit too much for them.”

On the performance of Mandriou, Skubala said: “Daniel Mandriou is a good player. We’ve had to play him a little bit lower, but again we trust him with what to do.

“Another player that’s been out the team for a bit, not getting the minutes he wants.

“He came on today and I thought he did a brilliant job.”

On the goals his side scored, Skubala said: “Good goals, I’m really pleased with all the goals. All the goals were good finishes.

“What’s really pleasing is we took our chances. We feel like sometimes we’re getting into the final third and we just need a bit more quality.

“But today I thought they showed the quality in the final third which is brilliant.”

Barnsley head coach Neill Collins admitted it was a poor performance from his team.

He said: “It probably doesn’t take rocket science to work out that the majority, if not all of our team, were way below the standards they’ve set.

“I should stress that the players have been fantastic this season, they’ve taken a lot of plaudits and rightfully so.

“But today there were just so many that fell below the levels and made individual, basic errors that were capitalised on by a very good side, who are in a very good moment.

“The scoreline was a combination of things and the biggest one just being that we had too many players being way below par.

“When you make mistakes and you get punished by goals then you take it out of your hands.

“We started poorly, went behind. But then from that point on we looked ourselves, looked like we were getting into great positions.

“But you just can’t legislate when you’re already 1-0 down to make the mistakes that we did for the second and third goal.

“There’s no question that we made it an awful lot easier for them and we don’t normally make it easy for teams.”

Promotion-chasing Stevenage were held to a goalless draw at Lincoln.

Michael Skubala’s hosts stretched their unbeaten run to 10 games as they stopped Steve Evans’ side from going five points clear in the play-off race.

The draw ended a three-game winning streak for Lincoln, who have impressively kept four clean sheets on the spin, not conceding in 378 minutes of football.

Stevenage boss Steve Evans was booked for remonstrating with the officials in the first half.

The two sides cancelled each other out in a scrappy opening period, with Joe Taylor blasting over from Reeco Hackett-Fairchild’s cross for the hosts the best chance of the half.

The visitors were relieved when Carl Piergianni blocked Paudie O’Connor’s header at the far post.

Jamie Reid could only nod straight at Lincoln goalkeeper Lukas Jensen when he should have done better before Evans made a quadruple substitution in a bid to snatch the points.

Freddie Draper nodded over late on for City as neither side were able to find a breakthrough.

Lincoln boss Michael Skubala described his side’s 3-0 League One defeat of Shrewsbury as the best performance of his 20-game Imps tenure as they stretched their unbeaten run to nine.

The hosts were dominant from the off, taking a sixth-minute lead through Teddy Bishop before Reeco Hackett doubled the advantage.

Lasse Sorensen then produced a spectacular strike to seal the deal, although the Danish full-back was honest enough to admit afterwards that he may have been a tad fortunate to find the top corner form the right wing.

“I thought we were phenomenal,” gushed Skubala. “For the first 20 minutes, I thought we were electric, the lads were unbelievable.

“I said we needed to start fast, but I’ve never seen them start that fast.

“For the rest of the game I thought we were really good to a man. That was probably the best performance since I’ve been here.

“They couldn’t live with our intensity, our counter-pressing, the second balls and the way we got on their backline. We could have had another penalty and a few more goals.

“I think we had something like 22, 23 shots and it was simply a very good performance.”

City took the lead after six minutes from Hackett’s corner. Joe Taylor’s shot was blocked and Hackett’s follow-up was kept out, only for Bishop to fire his effort into the bottom corner.

Hackett made it two after 57 minutes, smashing a left-footed shot into the top corner following a back-heeled pass from Taylor.

A third came 10 minutes later via Sorensen. The hosts had won a penalty after Ben House was brought down by keeper Harry Burgoyne following a woeful Carl Winchester back-pass. Bishop struck a post from the spot, with the ball rebounding out to Sorensen on the right wing. The Dane instinctively delivered it back into the danger area, with the ball arcing into the top left-hand corner of the net.

Shrewsbury boss Paul Hurst was bitterly disappointed with his under-performing players and gave a brutal assessment of his team.

“We were second best from start to finish,” admitted Hurst. “I feel sorry for the fans that travelled who gave their support, but I was amazed when I saw them clapping at the end.

“That type of performance was unacceptable. There are ways to lose games of football, irrespective of scoreline, and that’s not how to do it. I have told the lads loud and clear it is unacceptable.

“It was a tough night and I am almost embarrassed. That is nowhere near what I want from this team.”

Hurst had to make a few changes from the team that won 3-2 at Reading at the weekend but he said: “We had to change three of the back five but that doesn’t stop you running around, from winning tackles.”

Lincoln manager Michael Skubala wants his side to be more ruthless after the 1-0 sky Bet League One victory over Exeter at LNER Stadium.

Joe Taylor clipped in the winner with his first goal for the club since joining on loan from Luton. He calmly dinked the ball over Viljami Sinisalo midway through the second half.

In a game short of real clear-cut opportunities, Ben House was denied by a solid double save from the visiting goalkeeper Sinisalo.

“We needed to be a bit more clinical in front of goal in the first half,” Skubala said.

“I though tactically, Exeter caused some real troubles today. We knew they’d keep the ball well. We made some adjustments at half time to try and break through them a little bit more. The match plan the lads stuck to was fantastic and in the end our quality showed.

“We’re pleased again to get another win at home, but the players have done really well. Not only have we got competition for places at the moment, but the players also who are coming in are impacting the game as well.

“Joe Taylor loves scoring goals. He’s been snatching at chances the last couple of games. When he went through, I was just hoping and praying he’d score. I know now he’s started scoring, he’s going to get more and more at this level. That’s hopefully going to settle him down a bit.

“If we can’t win, we need to be hard to beat. If we’re hard to beat, we’ll go on and win more games. We were both today.”

Jack Aitchison hit the bar for Exeter with the Grecians only clear-cut opportunity.

Dion Rankine burst down the wing and picked out Aitchison inside the Lincoln area. The Scot’s side-footed effort was tipped onto the bar by the ever-alert Lukas Jensen.

Exeter manager Gary Caldwell was disappointed with his side’s performance.

“We got what we deserved today, and we need to be better than that.” Caldwell said.

“The result is what it is, we never got going at any point. We still created the best chance of the game at 0-0. We need to recognise when we come to stadiums like this we need to pass forward quicker. We have to be willing to fight more. Lincoln outbattled us today so we must take that on the chin.

“A good run can very quickly become a bad run, so we have to recognise standards in training have to go up. Too often we didn’t defend simple balls. We have to defend the ball better than we did. We risked the game in areas we shouldn’t have.

“There are so many mistakes we have to address.”

Lincoln boss Michael Skubala was “really impressed” with his side as they beat 10-man Fleetwood 2-1.

It was a first home win for the club since mid-October as they secured back-to-back victory by coming from behind at Sincil Bank.

Promise Omochere opened the scoring, but Bosun Lawal’s sending-off after a melee in first-half stoppage time turned the game on its head.

Returning Ben House and Lasse Sorensen struck inside five second-half minutes to secure a welcome win.

“It’s nice,” said Skubala. “When you play at home against Fleetwood, you know there’s an expectation to get a result.

“I was really impressed with how we dominated the game in the second half. In the end the quality showed.

“Lukas made a mistake and first thing he did was apologise for the lads. He’s had a great season for us, so we allow him to make a mistake.

“It’s not easy against 10 men. We saw that against Burton, it can be tough mentally.

“There were some huge performances out there today. We controlled the second half really well.

“You have to be calm against 10 men. Wait for the moments and that’s what’s happened.”

And when asked his opinion on the dismissal, Skubala said: “I didn’t really see what happened with the sending-off.

“I think there was some confusion in terms of who to book.

“I didn’t hear what Lawal said, there’s a long way between us and the fourth official.

“All I know was there was a lot of hugging really. It looked like the ball was going into the box so I was looking at that.”

Fleetwood were bidding to win three straight league games for the first time since March 2021.

Boss Charlie Adam said: “We are on the wrong side of a mistaken identity and it’s cost us at the end of the day.

“We had real control of the game and once we scored the goal we had a real tempo.

“It’s a big disappointment for us with the circumstances surrounding the result. But I’ve told the lads in the dressing room that they have to roll their sleeves up and move on to Tuesday now.

“It’s always tough to take when something like that happens, but you can’t change it.

“We played really well in stages. We controlled the game and then it turned on a decision.

“I’m really pleased with the performance from the boys. We roll our sleeves up and go again.

“That’s all you can do.”

Lincoln boss Michael Skubala believes Paudie O’Connor’s game-changing red card in his side’s 2-1 defeat to Northampton was harsh.

Jon Guthrie and Kieron Bowie put the visiting Cobblers 2-0 up with goals either side of the break at Sincil Bank.

Timothy Eyoma halved the deficit on the hour mark, before O’Connor was sent off for a stray elbow with 15 minutes to go.

Skubala said: “I don’t think it’s a sending-off, I’ve seen it back and I don’t think it’s a sending-off and that changes the game.

“I think he’s gone to jump. I’ve only seen a clip, he’s not got his elbow out he’s gone to jump in the air and he needs to use his hands to get up.

“For me it’s a yellow card, it’s not a red card. We now lose Paudie, because he’s been sent off already this season, for six or seven games. That’s a big loss.”

And on the game, a third straight defeat, Skubala added: “It was another tough night in terms of result and performance.

“The goal we conceded first took the wind out of us. Maybe Lukas (Jensen) didn’t need to come for that.

“Even then, I tried to get them to be aggressive with 10 men. It was a really tough day at the office.

“It’s one of the things I’m grappling with is that when we have a knock we go really passive when I want us to be aggressive.

“We just need to keep pushing the game and being aggressive. Sometimes that can be inexperience.

“It’s the mentality, it’s the aggression. Sometimes we’ve been naive. It’s the mentality, 100 per cent.”

Northampton boss Jon Brady celebrated the victory by pounding his chest a la Jose Mourinho.

He said: “The emotion just took over. I don’t usually do that but I wanted to enjoy the win and celebrate with our supporters.

“With the circumstances, having so many players out, and it being backs to the wall, the whole team really came to the fore.

“To get a win away from home and to bounce back after Boxing Day and have the character to do that, fair play to the boys.

“It was just a release of emotion at the end and it feels great. You have to enjoy these moments. I’m proud of the boys. It feels like such a huge win.”

Ahead of a clash with Cheltenham on New Year’s Day, he added: “But that will be gone in 10 or 15 minutes because this period’s such a turnaround.

“Both teams are two of the most in-form teams at the moment. Cheltenham are on a good run.

“You cannot underestimate them because Darrell (Clarke) has got them firing and they’re climbing up the league now. We’re in for a hell of a battle.

“Thanks to all the fans for a fantastic year and here’s to 2024.”

Northampton made it two wins from their last three League One games with a 2-1 victory over Lincoln at Sincil Bank.

Goals either side of half-time from Jon Guthrie and Kieron Bowie were the difference as Jon Brady’s side inflicted a third straight defeat on Michael Skubala’s Imps.

The visitors opened the scoring after half an hour when Guthrie out jumped Imps goalkeeper Lukas Jensen to head into an empty net from a Marc Leonard cross.

Lincoln began the second half brightly as they went in search of an equaliser with Jack Burroughs denied by Max Thompson in the Cobblers’ goal.

At the other end, Northampton continued to pose a threat on the break and with 58 minutes gone Bowie’s left-footed shot from the edge of the area doubled the visitors’ lead.

Just two minutes later Timothy Eyoma’s close-range header from an Ethan Hamilton corner promised to set up a thrilling finish.

However, any hope Lincoln had of an unlikely comeback ended when Paudie O’Connor was shown a straight red card for a deliberate elbow as Town held on for all three points.

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