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.”

Cambridge head coach Garry Monk was full of praise for his players after the 2-0 win at Barnsley which earned him his first win since taking charge.

An own goal from Mael de Gevigney gave struggling Cambridge the lead before Gassan Ahadme sealed a crucial three points.

Monk said: “We’ve had two weeks to work on stuff, for this particular game, and I was interested to see the level of fight that goes with it and I thought we got all of that.

“I was really pleased because the last two weeks we’ve worked extremely hard and when you’re in a moment of low confidence you need something like this, you need a performance like this.

“You need certain things in games to go for you and obviously you need a result, something to build on. In terms of the level of performance, it was much more in the realms of what we were looking for.

“Delighted for the players, obviously the travelling fans. Giving them a good trip home is obviously important, compared to the last couple. So overall, a pleasing day. But we need more. We’ve got a game on Monday, we’ve set the standard today and we need to back this up.”

Barnsley head coach Neill Collins felt his side’s performance did not match with a disappointing defeat for his play-off chasing side.

He said: “The first goal was a freak incident, I think that maybe happens one in a million.

“A misplaced back-pass – I won’t go into too much detail but ultimately it’s a freak. Normally it goes back to the goalkeeper and you play it up the field, you play it out, just today we got punished pretty brutally and it was the last thing we needed.

“Then we went on and we really should really have just put the ball in the net. We missed good chances and when you do that, then you end up with what we got. We got punished again.

“They took the second goal, made it really difficult, so I’m so bitterly disappointed with the result but I think there’s parts of our performances that need to be better.

“Would we have liked to create a little bit more? Yeah, absolutely. I think that’s where we can just do a little bit better individually and collectively – that last ball, that final delivery.

“That’s where we’ve got to be really careful because you can’t say we created any less today than we have in a lot of other victories this year.

“But in the victories we punished those chances, today we didn’t and we got pretty brutally punished at the other end.”

Reading manager Ruben Selles praised the strong character of his players for brushing aside the club’s off-field worries to secure a vital 4-0 League One victory over Cambridge.

Goals from Sam Smith and Femi Azeez gave Reading, who are still beset by constant cash-flow problems, a commanding half-time lead and they cruised past Cambridge after the break with further efforts from Lewis Wing and Kelvin Ehibhatiomhan.

“It was really important for me to see the character of the team as the week has been another difficult one for us,” Selles said.

“The boys have been working really hard to get that kind of performance and to get those goals.

“We focused on the task in hand and it is good to find a group of players who want to compete for each other in that way.

“I’m very proud of what they did today.

“We were very ruthless in the final third, very ruthless in what we did. I would like to see that more often.

“It’s not myself who kept the players focused. I think they learnt themselves to keep focused as individuals and as a team.

“It was a great expression of the character of the dressing room. The team is alive, it means that it has that life inside.

“It makes them really difficult to beat and they showed that. So it’s not down to me, it’s absolutely them.”

Struggling Cambridge, with new head coach Garry Monk three matches into his reign, lost heavily to Reading after a previous 6-0 defeat at Lincoln on Tuesday.

“It’s been a difficult week,” said Monk. “But I’m not going to lose any belief in the squad.

“It’s been a difficult two games that we’ve had but I’ve seen enough in the players, the ability is there.

“But it’s been a symptom of these two games. We started this one well enough and with a bit of momentum.

“But it seems that every time we get that bit of momentum, we kind of shoot ourselves in the foot.

“The first two goals were similar to Tuesday (against Lincoln). They were just poor goals, just individual errors, whether that’s down to concentration or decision-making.

“And it leads straight to a goal. Unfortunately, that’s what happened on Tuesday and that’s what happened today.

“There were quite a few large spells in the game overall when we were quite competent with the ball and were doing OK.

“But we come out in the second half, again gain momentum, but not taking our opportunities is then compounded by Reading’s last two goals.

“And then you’re out of the game.”

Financially-troubled Reading put aside their off-field worries with a 4-0 home win over fellow League One strugglers Cambridge.

In a scrappy first half, Reading opened up a 2-0 lead thanks to goals from striker Sam Smith – his 12th of the season – and winger Femi Azeez.

Well-struck second-half efforts from Lewis Wing and Kelvin Ehibhatiomhan secured the comprehensive victory.

Reading, still beset by constant cash-flow problems under owner Dai Yongge, began slowly against Cambridge.

United defender Michael Morrison found space and nodded narrowly wide early on from a Liam Bennett cross.

But Royals went ahead when Cambridge’s James Gibbons made a hash of an intended clearance from a Harvey Knibbs cross and Smith pounced for his fifth goal in as many games.

Reading increased their advantage in the second minute of first-half stoppage time when Azeez ran through unchallenged on a quick break and beat keeper Jack Stevens with a fierce near-post shot.

Cambridge could have halved the gap soon after the interval, with home keeper Joel Pereira making a superb double save to deny Elias Kachunga from close range.

Pereira’s heroics proved crucial, with Wing effectively making the game safe for Royals when firing over United’s substitute keeper Will Mannion in the 62nd minute.

Ehibhatiomhan struck with five minutes left, lashing past Mannion from the edge of the area for his 10th goal of the campaign.

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.”

Jack Moylan and Joe Taylor both scored twice as rampant Lincoln stretched their unbeaten Sky Bet League One run to 12 matches as they thrashed Cambridge 6-0 at the LNER Stadium.

Irishman Moylan netted two brilliant goals in Saturday’s 5-1 mauling of Barnsley and scored twice in the opening half hour, before Taylor grabbed his own brace, while substitutes TJ Eyoma and Dylan Duffy also got in on the act.

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 Moylan who smashed a shot high into the roof of the net.

Jack Stevens made a flying save to deny Sorensen after he latched on to a terrific Danny Mandroiu pass, who then himself stabbed the corner wide.

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

Stevens superbly denied Sorensen again in first-half stoppage-time, but it took the Imps just three minutes of the second half to go 3-0 up.

Mandroiu’s sublime ball across Cambridge’s area found an unmarked Taylor, who had the easy job of steering the ball into the net.

James Brophy brought a good save out of Lukas Jensen, before lobbing another effort just over, while Ryan Bennett headed narrowly wide from a corner as Cambridge enjoyed their best spell of the match.

Lincoln, though, added a fourth after 75 minutes when Moylan’s brilliant through ball set up Taylor, who dinked 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.

Garry Monk felt Cambridge showed signs of what they can be capable of in his first match as manager.

Cambridge looked on course to mark Monk’s first match with a victory but Northampton dominated territory in the second half and ensured the points were shared courtesy of Jon Guthrie’s late goal.

The Us moved a point further away from the relegation zone with the 1-1 draw, ending a run of four straight losses and sitting five points above the drop zone with 10 games remaining.

“The positive of it is that we’ve stopped that run of results,” said Monk, whose side had led through Elias Kachunga.

“As much as the aim is the three points, every point will count. So I’m pleased on that side of it from the players.

“Quite understandably in that second half, where you haven’t won for a while and you haven’t got points, that kind of protective mentality comes in where you’ve got the points and it feels close, and then you’re maybe a bit too protective and stop doing what we were doing with the ball and being that threat.

“It allowed Northampton to come much more into the game in that second half. That’s stuff to work on, for sure. I probably expected a little bit of that, but I can’t complain. The players were great.

“I’ve always said that if you can’t win a game then make sure you don’t lose it. They did everything to make sure they didn’t lose that game. We can be better but that first half’s a really good indication of what they can be capable of.”

Jon Brady spoke highly of his Northampton side as they collected a point following a 5-1 loss to Peterborough on Tuesday.

“It has to be a good point,” he said. “It’s a bit of a milestone to get to 50.

“Our remit was to maintain our League One status, then we can breathe a sigh of relief. To do what we’ve done so far, without patting ourselves on the back yet, is a fantastic achievement.

“We’ve had nine out in the last three weeks, one’s a goalkeeper and six are defenders so we’re shuffling the pack all over the place with no consistency.

“There’s some constraints to us and we’re still putting in that performance. I’m really proud of the character of the team.”

Speaking of his message at half-time, Brady spoke of the need for “a lot more purpose, move the ball quicker, a few tactical elements to get round the sides a bit quicker”.

He added: “I thought we did, and we dominated possession and they were hardly in our half.

“Tuesday night was so tough to take, to bounce back like this today even after going 1-0 down shows you huge character.”

Garry Monk’s first game as Cambridge head coach ended in a 1-1 draw with Northampton.

Monk was appointed on Monday after over three years without a management role, and Jon Guthrie’s late header denied him a debut victory.

His Us side went ahead with their first meaningful attack on 16 minutes, Elias Kachunga firing in after neat interplay between Liam Bennett and Jack Lankester.

Northampton almost scored direct from a corner before keeper Jack Stevens punched Marc Leonard’s delivery away on the line, while Kachunga could have added a second when volleying Lyle Taylor’s cross wide with the last action of the first half.

The Cobblers pressed hard for an equaliser after the break, with Liam Moore’s header deflected off target and Ben Fox shooting wide from the edge of the box just before the hour.

Visiting boss Jon Brady was booked by referee Declan Bourne, seconds before his side drew level eight minutes from the end when captain Guthrie beat Stevens to the ball and headed home Leonard’s free-kick.

Aaron Collins scored his first goal for Bolton as they rejuvenated their automatic promotion hopes with a comfortable 2-0 Sky Bet League One win over Cambridge.

Collins had gone seven appearances since making his move from Bristol Rovers without breaking his duck until netting a 66h-minute match-clinching goal from Paris Maghoma’s assist.

The Welshman had another effort kicked off the line by Liam Bennett as Wanderers returned to winning ways after back-to-back losses at Blackpool and Wigan.

But Ian Evatt’s side never looked likely to suffer a third successive defeat.

Josh Dacres-Cogley crashed a Collins cross onto the bar after seven minutes and Jack Stevens saved from Dacres-Cogley and Ricardo Santos.

Midfielder George Thomason’s right-footed, 18-yard low drive and fifth goal of the campaign finally fired Bolton in front after 35 minutes.

Cambridge, beaten 2-1 when the teams met last month, went close to a 59th-minute equaliser as James Brophy fired narrowly over from Sullay Kaikai’s cross.

Instead, Collins doubled Bolton’s lead to keep the Trotters hard on the heels of top two Peterborough and Derby.

Jordan Roberts scored the only goal as Stevenage edged past managerless Cambridge to move back into the play-off places in Sky Bet League One.

Roberts put the hosts in front 10 minutes before the break, firing past U’s goalkeeper Jack Stevens from the edge of the box.

But Stevenage’s opener could have come earlier had it not been for Stevens saving Cambridge on two occasions.

The first stop came after Jamie Reid raced away before Kane Hemmings’ header forced Stevens to parry a second chance.

Boro finally took the lead when Roberts collected the ball and struck on the swivel for his fifth league goal of the season in the 35th minute.

Cambridge, who saw manager Neil Harris depart for Millwall last week, managed to get a foothold in the second half and Jack Lankester hit a volley just over the crossbar.

But Stevenage held on for a vital boost to their play-off hopes, reclaiming a place in the top six after a second successive 1-0 home win.

Manager Darren Ferguson stated Peterborough’s 1-0 win over Cambridge in the Cambridgeshire derby was more important than reaching Wembley on Tuesday night.

The Posh claimed their first league success at the Abbey Stadium since 1988, having beaten Blackpool four days previously to reach the EFL Trophy final.

Ephron Mason-Clark netted the winner 10 minutes into the second half when his cross from the left missed everybody and went straight in.

Peterborough got their promotion push back on track following four straight League One losses while the result compounds a difficult week for Cambridge after head coach Neil Harris left the club on Wednesday to take charge of Millwall.

Ferguson said: “I’m delighted with the win; it was the most important game of the week.

“We’ve managed to come away, get the clean sheet, get the win which we thoroughly deserved.

“It’s the first time Peterborough have won here for 30 years, which tells you how hard it is. I was really pleased for the fans we got that win.

“We were a bit fortunate with the goal. It’s a good ball into the box but obviously it’s meant for someone. We just can’t kill a team off. We get so many opportunities.

“I felt today was a really pivotal day for us. There was no way we could drop any more points. When you lose four games on the bounce it’s a terrible month but there’s still time I think to catch up.

“Last season (here) it was a painful defeat. We didn’t turn up. The fans knew that. Today was a must-win for me after last season.”

Barry Corr took interim charge of Cambridge for the second time this season following the departure of Harris.

He said: “I’ve said it to the players after the game about the things we could control. One of those things was our application, how much sweat was on the shirt at the end of the day.

“I thought they were spot on in that respect. We were totally committed to the game.

“It’s frustrating the goal they scored is a cross that snuck in at the back post. The reality is we had to work so hard without the ball that we probably didn’t have the energy when it was turned over.

“I can’t really complain too much because they had good chances in the game but we had a few little chances and for me a nailed on penalty on James Brophy.

“There’s loads of disappointment in the changing room, particularly conceding a goal like we did.

“It’s one of those random things that happens in football, sometimes they go beyond the post. Luck wasn’t with us in that respect.”

Peterborough capped a memorable week by claiming bragging rights with a 1-0 win at managerless arch-rivals Cambridge.

Having reached the EFL Trophy final on Tuesday, Posh grabbed the decisive goal 10 minutes into the second half.

In a seemingly unthreatening position, Ephron Mason-Clark delivered a cross from the left which evaded everyone in the box before finding the far corner of Jack Stevens’ net.

Their pressure had been building before half-time, with Archie Collins clipping the top of the bar from the edge of the box and the unmarked Kwame Poku somehow firing Malik Mothersille’s cross wide.

The hosts – who saw manager Neil Harris leave this week to return to Millwall – threatened themselves, with Jed Steer saving well from Jack Lankester’s effort and from the resulting corner Elias Kachunga headed in before being denied by the offside flag.

Having scored the opener, Mason-Clark nearly turned provider but substitute Hector Kyprianou thumped his effort onto the bar before Joel Randall’s shot was deflected just wide.

Cambridge’s big chance to equalise came on 80 minutes but Danny Andrew fired narrowly wide from 20 yards.

Bolton boss Ian Evatt praised his patient match-winner Carlos Mendes Gomes after seeing his side dispatch Cambridge 2-1 and close in on the League One automatic-promotion places.

Mendes Gomes has had a stop-start season since joining the Trotters from Luton last summer, but found the net in the 63rd minute to secure the points for his side which took them level with second-placed Derby.

Cambridge had hit the front in the first half thanks to an Eoin Toal own goal, but Bolton levelled after the break through Paris Maghoma before Mendes Gomes volleyed the winner from Josh Sheehan’s fine pass.

Evatt said: “Carlos has had injuries and he’s had to wait for that moment, and he’s taken his chance superbly.

“We know he has the quality to do that – he can play a number of positions and can hurt teams in the final third – that’s why we chased him for four years before signing him.”

Overall Evatt was happy with how his side recovered after falling behind early on.

“We gave ourselves a mountain to climb, but the boys showed their character and resilience,” he said.

“It’s tough being at the top of the league – the pressure is on but we keep finding the right solutions.”

Cambridge were rewarded for a bright start in the ninth minute when Sullay Kaikai latched on to a loose pass from Maghoma and drove in a low cross which flicked off Toal and looped over goalkeeper Joel Coleman.

Kaikai then saw a shot parried by Coleman, while at the other end Jack Stevens denied Jon Dadi Bodvarsson and made a comfortable save from Nathan Ogbeta’s effort.

Bolton started the second half on the front foot, and equalised when a 52nd-minute corner was flicked on by Gethin Jones into the path of Maghoma, who touched home.

Eleven minutes later Sheehan was given time and space to pick out the run of Mendes Gomes, who caught the ball perfectly as it dropped over his shoulder to beat Stevens.

Cambridge should have equalised when substitute Jack Lankester shot wide from 12 yards in the 84th minute, and the night got worse for the U’s late on when Lyle Taylor was shown a red card for an off-the-ball clash with Bolton defender Jack Iredale.

United manager Neil Harris said he did not see the red-card incident, but was happy with his side’s efforts.

“I think we played really well in the first half, and finished the game strongly, but the 20 minutes at the start of the second half were disappointing,” he said.

“They’re the best possession-based team in the league and I thought we gave a good account of ourselves, but the disappointment is the equaliser; you can’t get beaten from a set-play so easily.”

Bolton came from behind with two goals in 11 second-half minutes to beat Cambridge 2-1 and close in on the League One automatic-promotion places.

Paris Maghoma and Carlos Mendes Gomes both struck to give the Trotters a victory which took them level with second-placed Derby, who have played one game more.

Cambridge had defended solidly for much of the first half, having taken a ninth-minute lead. Maghoma gave the ball away to Sullay Kaikai, whose low cross looped in off Bolton defender Eoin Toal.

Kaikai saw a shot parried by Joel Coleman, while at the other end Jack Stevens made a comfortable save from Nathan Ogbeta’s low effort.

Bolton started the second half on the front foot, and were rewarded when a 52nd-minute corner was flicked into the path of Maghoma, who touched home.

Eleven minutes later Josh Sheehan was given time and space to pick out the run of Mendes Gomes, who volleyed in from close range.

Cambridge forward Lyle Taylor was shown a late red card for an off-the-ball clash with defender Jack Iredale.

Cambridge boss Neil Harris was delighted his frontline answered his call for more goals after a 4-0 win at basement boys Carlisle.

The U’s secured their biggest league win of the season as Sullay Kaikai, Sam Levelle’s own goal, Elias Kachunga’s header and Ryan Bennett’s late fourth did the damage at Brunton Park.

Victory saw Harris’ side go eight points clear of the drop zone and cut their goal difference down to minus eight.

“A clean sheet is vitally important and we’re pleased with the four goals,” reflected Harris.

“If we’re honest it could have been six or seven. The boys are disappointed they’ve not scored more goals.

“When I talk about defending as a team and attacking as a team, it’s important for the defenders to score goals as well.

“Stats are important, goals are important with goal difference and things like that.

“After the back of a week of two disappointing results, we’re really pleased. You end up chasing a little bit and look towards the fixtures coming up.

“It’s a strong performance that gives us a lot of belief and confidence.

“I thought Carlisle had to win the game to have any hope about trying to catch us or anybody else.

“The first seven minutes we were a very poor version of ourselves. We settled and the goal helps.”

For relegation-threatened Carlisle it was a sorry seventh straight loss as hopes of survival continued to slip away.

Deflated Paul Simpson said: “It’s probably as disappointed as I have been all season if I’m honest.

“I just felt it was a bit of a capitulation from us after the second goal.

“I thought we started the first half bright. We got in the final third and I sound like a broken record but when we get in the final third it fizzled out.

“We didn’t get tight enough for the first goal. I’ve spoken all season about sending wide players down the line and going into a race with them. We let the wide player do whatever he wants. You have to defend that better.

“The second goal is a horrible one to give away. It’s a mistake and we have to accept that. It’s slippy conditions and the ball slips through the keeper’s hands.

“The third, the recovery runs aren’t quick enough when we give the ball away up the pitch. We aren’t sprinting to get back.

“The fourth is a centre-back having more desire to get on a cross coming in. There’s a million and one things we could talk about.”

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