Derby County sealed a Championship return by beating already-relegated Carlisle United 2-0 at Pride Park on the final day of the League One season.

Derby knew a single point would end their two-year stay in the third tier of English football, with Bolton Wanderers waiting to pounce if the Rams did suffer a shock defeat.

However, such a slip-up never looked likely as Max Bird's powerful strike from outside the area put them ahead within five minutes, and James Collins added a close-range second on the hour mark to make certain of promotion.

Paul Warne's team finished five points behind Portsmouth, who clinched the title earlier this month, and five clear of Bolton – who needed a late equaliser from Cameron Jerome to draw 3-3 with Peterborough. 

Bolton will face Barnsley in the play-offs as the Tykes were not punished for their 1-1 draw with Northampton Town, defeats for Blackpool and Lincoln City denying them the chance to gatecrash the top six.

Fourth-placed Peterborough will face Oxford United in the other play-off semi-final, as the U's clinched a 2-1 win over Exeter City to claim fifth place in the final reckoning. 

Three of the four relegation places had already been decided before Saturday's matches, with Carlisle, Port Vale, and Fleetwood Town on their way to League Two.

Cheltenham will join them after Nick Freeman struck a 90th-minute winner in their 2-1 loss at Stevenage. Darrell Clarke's side needed a win to save themselves and send Burton Albion down in their place, but they were hit with a late sucker punch as their three-year stay in League One came to an end. 

Cheltenham equalled the record for the most consecutive games without scoring in the Football League as Tuesday night’s 2-0 loss to Fleetwood extended their run to 11.

Coventry in 1919-20 and Hartlepool in 1992-93 also went 11 games without scoring and here, the PA news agency looks at the longest scoreless runs and how the Robins compare.

Cheltenham not at the races

Junior Quitirna and Jack Marriott scored Fleetwood’s goals as Cheltenham had veteran defender Curtis Davies sent off on their way to another unwanted record.

Their nine-game drought up to September 23’s 3-0 defeat to Stevenage was already the longest from the start of a Football League season, beating Halifax Town’s eight in 1990-91. Last Saturday’s 2-0 loss at Lincoln extended that before Fleetwood won by the same scoreline.

The Robins prop up League One with a solitary point, with only a goalless draw against Portsmouth breaking the run of defeats as 19 goals have gone in at the other end – exceeding the 15 shipped by Hartlepool or 13 by Coventry in their own runs of futility.

Expanding the picture to all competitions does not improve matters, with Cheltenham beaten 2-0 by Birmingham in the Carabao Cup. The ball did end up in Bristol Rovers’ goal in the Papa John’s Trophy but via an own goal from James Gibbons, who also scored at the right end in a 4-1 Rovers win.

Town striker Robert Street also scored an own goal in that game, one of three by Cheltenham players this season along with Liam Smith in the 3-0 loss to Bolton and Will Ferry for the only goal at Reading. Davies’ red card against Fleetwood was also their third of the season after James Olayinka and Nathan Butler-Oyedeji left them down to nine men against Peterborough.

Manager Wade Elliott was sacked after that 3-0 defeat, the eighth game in the sequence, with interim boss Kevin Russell and permanent replacement Darrell Clarke as yet unable to stop the rot.

Feeling Blue

The original 11-game record dates back over a century to Coventry’s dismal 1919-20 season in the second tier.

The Sky Blues, playing the same opponents on back-to-back weekends throughout their run, lost 1-0 to Fulham before a goalless draw in the return fixture and then drew 0-0 and lost 1-0 against Bristol City.

Huddersfield beat them 2-0 and 5-0, they followed a goalless draw with a 2-0 defeat against both Blackpool and West Ham, and another 0-0 with Leyton Orient completed the sequence before they ended it in style, Billy Walker’s opener setting up a 3-2 win over Stoke on Christmas Day 1919.

The first six scoreless games were under the caretaker management of Harry Harbourne, after William Clayton had been sacked following a poor start to the season. Harry Pollitt, who took over in time for the first Blackpool fixture and oversaw the remainder of the run, was later banned from football for life after being found guilty of match-fixing offences in the season-ending double-header against Bury.

Hartlepool, who like Cheltenham today were playing in the third tier, started their 1993 goalless run in the same way Coventry ended theirs as they drew 0-0 with Orient on January 9, before matching that result next time out against Preston.

They then lost 3-0 to Huddersfield and 2-0 in successive games against Rotherham, Reading and Port Vale. Mansfield and Bolton also beat them by two goals, interspersed with 1-0 losses to Bournemouth and Chester, before a goalless draw with Wigan.

A 1-1 draw against Blackpool on March 6 finally ended the run and ensured they did not break the record outright – can Cheltenham do likewise against Derby on Saturday?

Darrell Clarke vowed to turn Cheltenham’s fortunes around after their 2-0 defeat by Fleetwood saw them equal the EFL record with 11 scoreless games in succession.

Goals from Junior Quitirna and Jack Marriott secured a second win in a row for Fleetwood, with Curtis Davies’ red card in the 70th minute adding to the bottom-placed Robins’ misery.

Clarke, who was on the touchline for the first time since being unveiled as their new boss on Friday, admitted there will be no quick fix.

“The fans made their feelings known after the game and you can’t keep beating the players with a stick,” Clarke said.

“I don’t think it was a lack of effort, to be honest. It’s just a real lack of quality through the team, wrong decision making and players looking like little boys in a really tough league.

“That’s the reality of it and same as I said to my players in there, they are going to get all my support to try and turn them into men and into footballers because for a lot of them this is going to be a really harsh lesson.

“I am old enough and ugly enough to understand where we are at, but I will get it right, I know I will.

“There will be a lot sleepless nights ahead, a lot of hard work, but that’s what I am here for and owe it to our fans to make sure we can get a team out there they are going to be proud of.”

Quitirna curled a free-kick inside the bottom corner from 20 yards in the 19th minute to set Lee Johnson’s side on their way to a second successive victory.

Cheltenham were close to ending their drought in the fifth minute when Jovan Malcolm’s shot from 12 yards hit the post and Sean Long’s follow-up attempt flashed wide.

Davies saw a header gathered on the line by Jay Lynch 10 minutes into the second half.

But the veteran defender was shown a straight red card for a challenge on Ryan Broom in the 70th minute.

Jayden Stockley’s effort rebounded off the bar and Marriott reached quickest to tap in from close range and seal the win.

Fleetwood’s assistant manager Darren Way said: “I think from start to finish we were well organised.

“The lads implemented what the gaffer wanted. It’s been very rewarding for everyone involved and I felt we could’ve scored more.

“The gaffer is implementing a new style and philosophy and the great thing is that the players are willing to learn. He wants a team playing on the front foot.

“We’re a work in progress, but everyone can see what we’re trying to do. Every staff member is driving standards every day.”

Stevenage boss Steve Evans was thrilled to see Elliott List bag a brace in a comfortable 3-0 win at managerless Cheltenham Town.

The former Gillingham forward missed a year of action after suffering an ACL injury at the start of last season.

He came off the bench in the 57th minute and added to Jordan Roberts’ first-half strike for Boro, leaving bottom side Cheltenham still without a league goal this season.

“I’m really pleased for Elliott List,” Evans said. “It’s been a long 15 months for him.

“He did his ACL in the first game of last season and the reaction from the group, including everyone on the bench, was pure joy when he scored his goals.

“If he’d watched my finishing in training he could’ve had three. In fact, he was annoyed he missed one and I had to remind him he’d scored two, we’d won 3-0 and it was a good day at the office.”

Cheltenham rallied in the first half after Roberts’ opener, but the second half was all Stevenage.

“We’re delighted with the performance overall and should’ve scored three in the first 15 minutes,” Evans said.

“Cheltenham then came back into it and hit the bar. But in the second half it could’ve been anything. It was one-way traffic.

“They’re between managers which creates uncertainty for the players, but we were the superior side.”

The Robins parted company with boss Wade Elliott in midweek and placed Kevin Russell in temporary charge.

It took Boro only seven minutes to pierce their defence when Dan Butler’s corner fell for Roberts in the box and he beat Luke Southwood with a low finish.

Jovan Malcolm smashed a shot against the bar for the hosts after Liam Sercombe’s pass in the 34th minute.

Aidan Keena fired a shot just over and Sercombe forced Kristian Hegyi into a flying save before half-time as the Robins rallied.

But List made it 2-0 in the 69th minute after another Butler corner was not dealt with and he followed up to score his second in the 73rd minute after Southwood parried Ben Thompson’s shot from the edge of the box.

Cheltenham have now waited more than 13-and-a-half hours for a goal and never before has a team gone nine games without scoring at the start of a league season.

Interim boss Russell saw positives in the performance, but distanced himself from taking the job on a permanent basis.

“I came in with Wade as a coach and he’s a really good friend of mine, so it’d be really difficult for me to take the job,” Russell said.

“With regards to working with the new person, that’s a conversation that needs to be had further down the line. We’ll have to see.

“There were some positive aspects to look forward to, for whoever comes in, with a lot of continuity to push on. There is still a lot to play for.”

Reading manager Ruben Selles praised the “intensity” of his young players as they edged out Cheltenham 1-0 in League One.

Selles included four teenagers and three 20-year-olds in his starting line-up, with 18-year-old Caylan Vickers creating what turned out to be the winner in the 33rd minute.

Vickers’ mazy run from deep ended with a looping deflection from Cheltenham midfielder Will Ferry that arced over keeper Luke Southwood into his own goal.

It was relegated Reading’s first league win in 16 games across two divisions.

“I’m very proud of the performance that the team put together,” Selles said. “We knew that we had to play with all that intensity and that’s why I made the team selection.

“In the first half especially, we were exactly where we wanted to be. The team showed character, togetherness and the way that we do things here.

“We’ve been talking about the young players during the whole pre-season and they have been working fantastically from the very beginning.

“We have been annoyed with the situation with the club, when trying to get new players. So we have to work with those that we already have and they have showed how good they are.

“It doesn’t matter whether you are 18 or you are 32, you do all the proper things and you have first place in this team.

“We had to make a game plan that would show our identity and I think that we did that.

“We decided to go with the team that can bring more intensity to the game and it is the first time that we win [in the league] this season.

“We go home with that feeling and also that happiness.”

Struggling Cheltenham have lost all four league and cup matches this season, without scoring a goal.

Head coach Wade Elliott said: “I thought we were excellent in the second half.

“I didn’t think that there was a lot in it in the first half but some of the breaks that are going against us are tough, like the own goal.

“But in the second half I was really proud of the performance. They players left absolutely everything out there.

“I’ve just told them in the dressing-room that, as tough as it is, you just have to put yourselves back on the line to be knocked down again.

“So we have to get round each other and support each other. We can feel sorry for ourselves or get ready to go again.

“If we keep putting ourselves up there, the breaks will fall the other way for us.

“We’re creating enough opportunities but it’s the last little bit [the finishing] that was missing tonight. I thought everything else was good.”

Ian Evatt warned the rest of League One there is much more to come from his Bolton Wanderers side after their impressive 3-0 win at Cheltenham Town.

Dion Charles scored twice, along with an own goal from Liam Smith during a one-sided first half at the Completely-Suzuki Stadium.

The result puts Bolton top of the table with two wins from two, along with a Carabao Cup first round victory, making it seven unanswered goals this season for Evatt’s men.

“The weight of expectation is with us this season and it’s a really solid start, but I think there’s loads more to come,” Evatt said.

“It looks like we’re a lot more creative this season and are more of a threat. We have more athleticism, speed and dynamism.

“This group is very talented, but we aren’t going to get carried away because it’s only August so we’ll keep working hard.”

Charles’ opener arrived in the 15th minute after a clever ball from Victor Adeboyejo set him up to slot confidently past Luke Southwood.

Southwood dived to catch Randell Williams’ header two minutes later and Kyle Dempsey curled one just wide as Wanderers continued to dominate.

It was 2-0 after half an hour when a free-kick from Aaron Morley was whipped towards the near post and Liam Smith deflected it into his own net.

Charles added his second and Wanderers’ third with a fine curling finish in the 33rd minute, giving Southwood no chance.

“Some of our build up play was as good as you’ll see and I think we had another gear,” Evatt said.

“I thought Dion and Victor were superb. It’s really important that strikers get off the mark, but the way they play the goals will always come.

“It’s an exciting group to work with, but this result is parked and now it’s on to Tuesday (Fleetwood Town at home).”

Morley forced Southwood into another save 10 minutes into the second half before Cheltenham’s penalty appeals were waved away two minutes later when Rob Street went down in the box.

Lewis Freestone’s header from Liam Sercombe’s corner was brilliantly tipped over the bar by Nathan Baxter in the 79th minute and Street forced another save in the final seconds, but Wanderers comfortably made it three wins from three in all competitions to send their 1,486 travelling fans home happy.

Cheltenham boss Wade Elliott admitted his side lost their way during the opening 45 minutes after a promising start.

“It was a tough one and the goals were soft from our point of view,” Elliott said. “For 15 minutes, we got on the front foot and had a go.

“Their first goal knocked the stuffing out of us a little bit and obviously the game got away from us by half time.

“We stuck at it and kept going, showing a little bit of grit and character and kept pushing at the end even when in reality the game was beyond us.”

Dion Charles scored twice as Bolton Wanderers continued their impressive start to the season with a 3-0 win at Cheltenham Town.

All of the goals came during a one-sided first half at the Completely-Suzuki Stadium.

Charles’ opener arrived in the 15th minute after a clever ball from Victor Adeboyejo set him up to slot confidently past Luke Southwood.

Southwood dived to catch Randell Williams’ header two minutes later and Kyle Dempsey curled one just wide as Wanderers continued to dominate.

It was 2-0 after half an hour when a free-kick from Aaron Morley was whipped towards the near post and Liam Smith deflected it into his own net.

Charles added his second and Wanderers’ third with a fine curling finish in the 33rd minute, giving Southwood no chance.

Morley forced Southwood into another save 10 minutes into the second half before Cheltenham’s penalty appeals were waved away two minutes later when Rob Street went down in the box.

Lewis Freestone’s header from Liam Sercombe’s corner was brilliantly tipped over the bar by Nathan Baxter in the 79th minute and Street forced another save in the final seconds, but Wanderers comfortably made it three wins from three in all competitions.

Pep Guardiola praised the personality Phil Foden gave to Manchester City as they came from behind to beat Cheltenham Town 3-1 in the FA Cup, but insisted he does not have to fill Kevin De Bruyne's shoes.

Foden was instrumental as City avoided a huge shock in the fourth round on Saturday, which looked on the cards when Alfie May prodded fourth-tier Cheltenham ahead.

But the England international equalised by turning home at the far post nine minutes from time before Gabriel Jesus and Ferran Torres sealed progression to the fifth round.

City could have been out of sight by the time May put Cheltenham in front, with Guardiola's men wasteful in front of goal.

Foden played five key passes, with the fact none resulted in an assist indicative of the poor finishing displayed by City.

With De Bruyne out for up to six weeks with a hamstring injury, Guardiola was asked in his post-match media conference if Foden can help fill the void.

"Phil has to be Phil, Phil does not have to be Kevin De Bruyne," he replied. 

"Phil has to do what he is doing in terms of the bad moments when we were losing, the personality that he gave to the game.

"Phil can play in the middle, can play winger, can play in a false nine position up front. He's playing really well, again in the right moment he scored a goal."

Joao Cancelo played the cross for Foden's equaliser after coming off the bench, while fellow substitute Ilkay Gundogan pulled the ball back for Torres to tap in City's third.

Asked to explain their introductions, Guardiola said: "When you make a change you try to look for something.

"The young two players [Taylor Harwood-Bellis and Tommy Doyle] played really well but the quality of Gundogan and Joao in the final third was so important.

"Gundogan has the sense to score and with Phil and Riyad [Mahrez] in the final third we had the quality for the final pass and dribble and that's why they came in."

Manchester City produced a late turnaround to avoid humiliation at the hands of League Two side Cheltenham Town and claim a 3-1 win in the FA Cup fourth round.

Given the crowded fixture list all Premier League clubs are having to cope with amid the coronavirus pandemic, Pep Guardiola understandably shuffled his pack for the trip to Gloucestershire.

A youthful City side looked set to pay the price for profligacy after Alfie May gave the fourth-tier side a 59th-minute lead.

However, Phil Foden levelled matters nine minutes from time before Gabriel Jesus struck with six minutes remaining and Ferran Torres tapped in a last-gasp third as City overcame a tricky hurdle to keep their quadruple hopes alive.

Pep Guardiola is relishing the prospect of his Manchester City players being forced to get changed in the stadium bar before Saturday's FA Cup fourth-round tie at Cheltenham Town, but has no particular thirst for a European 'Super League'.

City's superstar squad will put on kits and lace their boots in one of the hospitality areas at Whaddon Road, as part of the League Two club's adaptation to abide by COVID-19 protocols.

Guardiola just had one stipulation to ensure his men are not tempted by a pre-match tipple.

"Please, only I ask to Cheltenham do not leave beers in the bar before the game," he joked.

"We will be delighted to change in the bar, but no alcohol there because we want to win the game and be in perfect condition."

For the City boss, it will be an experience to recall his first steps in coaching, when he led Barcelona B in the fourth tier of Spanish football.

And he was keen to point out that the pampered millionaire lifestyle is something no one experiences when starting out in the game.

"Of course," he replied when asked if he had ever experienced anything similar.

"Everyone comes from the lower divisions, my friend. Or do you believe when we are under-16 or under-18 we fly in private jets?

"We play in these stadiums all our careers, we don't play in big stadiums all the time. We came from [places like] Cheltenham. People cannot forget that, and it is a pleasure to play there.

"We were lucky to have success in our profession and go up the divisions, but we were there many times and we changed in bars as boys and we played football with incredible joy.

"We love this game and we change in these changing rooms for most of our careers, most of the time."

Nevertheless, Guardiola offered a stark warning to any stakeholders in the game who fail to nurture competitions lower down the pyramid.

"I have the feeling we cannot lose the local leagues," he said. "What we should do is make every single league in Europe stronger than what it is.

"To make a super Premier League, you have to reduce the teams. But we cannot kill the lower divisions or the Premier League itself.

"I want to protect the local leagues. I like to play against Leicester, Brighton, Burnley, Arsenal, West Brom, Liverpool...I love it."

Guardiola's other note of caution related to player burnout, in a week where he lost star midfielder Kevin De Bruyne for up to six weeks with a hamstring injury.

"I didn't read the paper [about the Super League] that you comment on, but I'm sure there will be more games – they are not going to reduce it," he added.

"All I can say is, let the players breathe a bit more, to recover better and make a better performance to make more spectators come back when they return to the stadiums or in front of the TV.

"More goals and action to make our sport better. This will only happen if players are fitter and feel more comfortable with the amount of games."

Manchester City will be without influential midfielder Kevin De Bruyne for between four to six weeks, manager Pep Guardiola has confirmed.

De Bruyne, the reigning PFA players' player of the year, has been in magnificent form again for City this season, scoring three goals and supplying 10 assists in the Premier League.

Guardiola's side are on a six-match winning run in the league, a streak that leaves them well placed in the title race - two points behind leaders Manchester United with a game in hand.

But De Bruyne was forced off after an hour of Wednesday's hard-fought 2-0 win over Aston Villa and, speaking ahead of Saturday's FA Cup trip to League Two Cheltenham Town, Guardiola outlined the extent of the Belgium international's hamstring injury.

"Kevin, like the doctor said today after a scan yesterday, will be between four and six weeks out," he said.

There was better news for right-back Kyle Walker, who is expected to return after the weekend having sustained a blow to the hip in the Villa game, but attention understandably fell upon De Bruyne, who will now miss a potentially crunch trip to take on faltering champions Liverpool at Anfield on February 7.

The playmaker faces a race to be fit for the first leg of City's Champions League last-16 match against Borussia Monchengladbach on February 24, and Guardiola rued his injury as a consequence of a congested fixture schedule.

Not for the first time this season, Guardiola took aim at the Premier League vote that elected not to increase the number of substitutions allowed during games from three to five - a move at odds with other major competitions in Europe.

"It is [a huge blow] but we have to move forward," Guardiola said.

"He has an important part of the season out and we have to find a solution. Everyone is struggling in the situation we are living and we have to adapt.

"When you compete in all the competitions it is important to have all the players healthy, but this is impossible.

"There are injuries at all the clubs. We knew it was going to happen, we tried to avoid it, we had more medical treatment than ever, more nutritionists than ever, we try to masseur as much as possible but they are human beings.

"This amount of competitions, at the end the bodies of the players says 'enough'.

"When we demand five subs, it's for this reason. Why can we do it [have five substitutes] in the FA Cup but the Premier League we cannot?

"The Premier League voted, but if they want to protect the players… I'm not saying because it's Kevin, it's many. More than ever.

"It’s too many games, too many competitions and, in the end, the players suffer. You want to play without Kevin De Bruyne for five, six weeks? Okay, the spectators will miss an incredibly top player, like in other teams. But it is what it is."

Manchester City will be without influential midfielder Kevin De Bruyne for between four to six weeks, manager Pep Guardiola has confirmed.

Sergio Aguero has confirmed he is self-isolating after returning a positive test for coronavirus.

The Manchester City striker has missed four straight games after coming into contact with another person who had contracted COVID-19.

Aguero announced his result on Twitter and it is not known when he will be free to return to training.

"After a close contact, I've been self-isolating and the latest test I took was positive for COVID 19," Aguero wrote.

"I had some symptoms and I'm following doctor's orders for recovery. Take care, everyone."

Aguero has played in just five Premier League games and nine matches in all competitions in a stop-start campaign.

Gabriel Jesus, Kevin De Bruyne and Ferran Torres have all been utilised as a central attacking option at times this term.

City are unbeaten in their past 16 matches in all competitions and are just two points off leaders Manchester United in the Premier League with a game in a hand.

Pep Guardiola's men face Cheltenham Town in the FA Cup this weekend and also have league matches with West Brom and Sheffield United within the next 10 days.

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