Harvey Knibbs was at the double as Reading fired themselves five points clear of the Sky Bet League One relegation zone with a fine 3-1 victory at basement boys Carlisle.

Playmaker Knibbs bagged a brace in the 5-1 drubbing when the the two sides met back in November.

And he repeated the trick with goals in neither half after Sam Smith put the visitors ahead at Brunton Park.

The Royals went close to an opener when Knibbs slipped Smith, whose effort hit a post, through on goal.

But the visitors hit the front moments later as Smith coolly slotted beyond on-rushing Harry Lewis in the 17th minute.

Captain Andy Yiadom unlocked the door for the second as he raced to the byline and cut back for Knibbs to tap home 10 minutes before half-time.

And dangerman Knibbs doubled his tally 12 minutes after the restart as he pounced on a teasing Femi Azeez cross for the third.

Kelvin Ehibhatiomhan almost had a fourth when his strike was tipped over by Lewis.

Jon Mellish pulled one back as he headed home Jordan Gibson’s cross with 20 minutes to go.

But it was a mere consolation as Paul Simpson’s crumbling Cumbrians slumped to a ninth defeat in 10.

John Mousinho’s half-time verbal volley hit the target as Paddy Lane earned victory for League One leaders Portsmouth against bottom side Carlisle.

Boss Mousinho did not like what he saw during the first half but his strong words provoked the desired response after the break as Lane netted his 10th goal of the campaign – his third in two games – after 62 minutes to stretch Pompey’s lead at the summit.

“We had a pop at half-time,” confirmed Mousinho. “We knew if we had more quality and take care of the things we needed to take care of we would go on and win the game.

“The performance for large parts was really positive apart from the start. We started like a side weary from the travel but I am not giving the lads that excuse because we do things well enough for them to be at it from the first whistle.

“We dominated possession without creating a huge amount. Carlisle were decent in the first half and had a go.”

Tom Lowery drove a shot against the woodwork in the opening half, in which all United’s best efforts came from Jordan Gibson.

Stung by their manager’s interval dressing-down, Pompey improved to the delight of their 1,848 fans who made their longest trip of the season.

But it still needed Abu Kamara’s introduction to unlock a defence that has now failed to keep a clean sheet for a club-record 25 league games.

Kamara’s run and defence-splitting pass allowed Lane to drill beyond Harry Lewis.

“Paddy’s goals have been important for us all season,” said Mousinho. “When we have relied on Colby (Bishop) to score we’ve probably not been as good a side as we could be.”

Despite their plight, Carlisle fans still managed a good ovation for former favourite Owen Moxon when he came off the bench after 74 minutes.

Moxon was outstanding for the Cumbrians in their promotion season but swapped bottom for top on deadline day.

Despite the club’s position manager Paul Simpson is not throwing in the towel.

“There is a definite disappointment we didn’t get anything out of the game,” he said.

“They know they did a lot of good things but unfortunately the good things counted for nothing.

“There are still plenty of games to go and people may think I am clutching at straws saying that but we have to keep believing. We have to make sure we finish this season much stronger than we have been so far.

“But we have got to work goalkeepers, get shots on target and crosses in the right area, and score goals. Unfortunately, we are not.

“The truth is everyone will have looked before the game and thought ‘Carlisle have got no chance, Carlisle are already relegated’. But we have got to surprise people, maybe even surprise ourselves.”

Carlisle’s new owners watched on as their team drew 1-1 at home against Charlton.

Castle Sports Group representatives were able to celebrate as Sam Lavelle hauled the hosts level eight minutes after Corey Blackett-Taylor fired the Addicks ahead.

Jordan Gibson went close for Carlisle early on when his shot was smartly saved by Ashley Maynard-Brewer.

The Addicks replied with Scott Fraser forcing home keeper Tomas Holy into an equally impressive stop, before the hosts’ Owen Moxon then fired over after he had met a tidy pass from Gibson.

Carlisle were saved by the woodwork in the 38th minute.

Lloyd Jones played in Blackett-Taylor, but his powerful drive thumped the crossbar.

The Addicks dominated the opening stages of the second period, and they got their reward after 54 minutes when Blackett-Taylor poked home as he darted in to convert Tennai Watson’s low cross.

Blackett-Taylor was denied a second thanks to Holy’s superb save and Carlisle levelled just past the hour-mark when Lavelle drilled home clinically following Jack Armer’s lay-off.

Ten-man Bristol Rovers earned a hard-fought 1-0 win at Carlisle to extend their unbeaten run in all competitions to five matches.

Sam Lavelle’s own goal before half-time proved to be the difference as managerless Rovers rose to 10th place in the League One table and Carlisle dropped to 22nd.

The Cumbrians looked threatening in the first half, with Jack Armer almost getting a toe on the end of Luke Plange’s low cross and Jordan Gibson dragging a shot wide.

But it was the Pirates who took the lead in the 38th minute, when the returning Jack Hunt’s cross took a wicked deflection off opposition defender Lavelle and looped into the net.

Carlisle pushed for an equaliser after the break, with Dylan McGeouch’s effort saved by Matthew Cox and substitute Sean Maguire’s flick-on from Owen Moxon’s low corner going over the crossbar.

Cox had to be alert again in the 65th minute, making a superb save down to his right to turn Plange’s header around the post.

Rovers were reduced to 10 men 17 minutes from time as Tristan Crama pulled back Terry Ablade to deny a clear goalscoring opportunity.

Further good saves from Cox denied the subsequent free-kick from Moxon and a shot from Plange, and the visitors held on for victory.

Jordan Gibson scored a first career hat-trick but manager Paul Simpson says Carlisle’s match-winner should have finished with four goals against Bolton.

Gibson, who had never previously netted even a senior double, fired a 44th-minute equalising penalty after Jon Mellish’s own goal put the Trotters in front.

He added further goals in the 70th and 95th minutes as the Cumbrians secured a 3-1 Sky Bet League One victory.

The visitors also missed a first-half penalty through Joe Garner after Kyle Dempsey’s foul on Sean Maguire, and Simpson revealed: “We had talked for weeks that Jordan Gibson is on penalties.

“But we didn’t talk before the game because I automatically thought Gibbo was on them.

“He got the ball but the next time I looked Joe was on it. I will never criticise players for missing pens but stick with what the plan is. Fortunately, we got away with it.

“We have spoken for weeks about penalties we have not been getting but we got two today.

“We have said Jordan should be getting more goals. So, what an achievement to come to a place like Bolton and score a hat-trick.

“It was an outstanding performance. I am delighted we scored three goals, I am delighted with the football we played but that was built on a solid, team performance.

“It showed discipline to go and do the horrible side of the game, to chase and to tackle. We have had games with bits of that performance but that result we have been waiting for, especially with so many fans backing us.”

Bolton, chasing a third successive league win, faded badly after the boost of Mellish’s own goal.

“We looked devoid of energy, devoid of ideas second half, we looked flat and we looked leggy,” admitted Wanderers boss Ian Evatt.

“We lacked zest and energy and those are the foundations everything else is built from.

“This was probably one game too far with the lack of options to rotate and freshen up.

“There were too many players under par. We get ahead but the two penalties were an absolute joke.

“I am sure neither were penalties but we had chances which we didn’t take.

“We huffed and we puffed but their second goal goes in via a deflection and then we make a crazy decision at the end with Nathan (Baxter) going up with still four minutes left.

“That said, Nathan was outstanding in the game. This international break has come at the right time.”

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