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.”

Lincoln kept alive their League One play-off hopes with a crucial 1-0 victory over sixth-placed Oxford at the Kassam Stadium.

Danny Mandroiu hit the winner from the penalty two minutes into the second half after Ruben Rodrigues fouled Ben House.

They held out despite having substitute Dylan Duffy sent off for a second yellow card seven minutes from the end.

It was a must-win game for the Imps after their home defeat by Wigan at the weekend and they started the better.

Paudie O’Connor forced goalkeeper Jamie Cumming into a save with a far-post header at a corner and Freddie Draper headed wide from close in.

The visitors suffered a blow when Reeco Hackett had to go off with an arm injury after what looked an innocuous challenge.

As the half wore on Oxford settled and keeper Lukas Jensen twice saved from Tyler Goodrham and Mark Harris also went close twice as the U’s turned up the heat.

But City also looked dangerous and Draper squandered another good opportunity from eight yards.

The U’s were caught cold at the start of the second half when they conceded the spot-kick, hammered home by Mandroiu to Cumming’s left.

Cameron Brannagan added an extra dimension for United when he came off the bench and he cut in from the left to hammer a fierce drive that Jensen did well to save.

But Lincoln defended resolutely for a victory that keeps their season going.

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.”

Substitute Jovon Makama scored a last-minute winner as Lincoln beat Leyton Orient 1-0 to move into the Sky Bet League One play-off positions for the first time this season.

Makama had been on the pitch for just a handful of minutes when he earned the Imps maximum points as they stretched their unbeaten run to 14 matches and dealt a major blow to Orient’s own play-off hopes.

Orient had the game’s first chance after six minutes, with Imps goalkeeper Lukas Jensen alert to tip Darren Pratley’s snapshot over the bar.

The game turned niggly, with little goalmouth action at either end, before Jordan Brown fired narrowly wide for the visitors after 29 minutes and then Ruel Sotiriou and Shaq Forde both fired straight at Jensen.

City finally managed their first shot of the match five minutes before the break when Joe Taylor ran on to Danny Mandroiu’s quick free-kick but blazed wildly wide.

It took 21 minutes of the the second half for either side to have an effort on goal, with Taylor stabbing an effort into the ground and wide.

Ollie O’Neill headed Rob Hunt’s inch-perfect cross narrowly over at the other end before Imps sub Freddie Draper finally had the hosts’ first shot on target after 76 minutes, his effort easily gobbled up by Sol Brynn.

Orient sub Ethan Galbraith nearly won it late on, his low drive bringing out an excellent diving save from Jensen.

But City did produce a winner when Makama did brilliantly to first block an attempted clearance and then collect the ball and curl a low shot into the bottom corner.

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.

Lasse Sorensen scored a goal of the season contender as in-form Lincoln stretched their unbeaten League One run to nine matches with a 3-0 defeat of Shrewsbury.

The Danish full-back found the top corner from the right touchline to add to earlier efforts from Teddy Bishop and Reeco Hackett as the Imps emphatically tamed the Shrews at Sincil Bank.

Chey Dunkley poked an early effort wide for Shrewsbury, before City went down the other end and Hackett’s corner created the opener.

Joe Taylor’s shot was blocked, with the rebound falling to Hackett whose effort was then kept out, only for Bishop to fire his effort into the bottom corner.

Bishop curled a 20-yard free-kick just over and then Hackett missed a golden chance to double City’s lead nine minutes into the second half, drilling wide when put through by Ethan Erhahon.

Hackett made amends just four minutes later, though, smashing a left-footed shot into the top corner following a delightful back-heeled pass from Taylor.

Both Hackett and Taylor were thwarted by Harry Burgoyne within a few seconds and then Sorensen drove into the side-netting as City went for the jugular.

A third inevitably came after 67 minutes with an incredible effort from Sorensen. The hosts had won a penalty after House was brought down by Burgoyne. Bishop struck a post from the spot, with the ball rebounding out to Sorensen on the right wing. The Dane instinctively let fly, with the ball arcing into the top left-hand corner of the net.

Taylor Perry finally had the Shrews’ first shot on target after 70 minutes, but Lukas Jensen produced a routine save.

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.”

Freddie Ladapo’s second-half equaliser ensured that Nathan Jones picked up his first point since being appointed Charlton manager.

However, a 1-1 draw against Lincoln at The Valley stretched the relegation-threatened Addicks’ winless run in Sky Bet League One to 14 matches.

The first half lacked quality until Reeco Hackett struck in the 37th minute. The Imps winger was first to latch on to George Dobson’s clearing header and drove a low finish past Harry Isted at his near post.

Ted Bishop put an early effort from a Lasse Sorensen shot wide, while Charlton struggled to fashion openings in a scrappy opening.

Tyreeq Bakinson produced a tame effort from Daniel Kanu’s lay-off inside the penalty area.

Lincoln’s Danny Mandroiu saw a 25-yard attempt crash back off the right upright in the 67th minute after Hackett nudged a short free-kick into his path.

Substitute Ladapo, on loan from Ipswich, had only been on the pitch for a couple of minutes when he levelled, striking the ball beyond Lukas Jensen from the edge of the box.

Lincoln keeper Jensen made a vital late stop to deny Tayo Edun as the visitors extended their unbeaten run to six matches, with this their fourth draw in that sequence.

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.”

Ten-man Lincoln ground out a 1-0 victory over Burton thanks to Reeco Hackett’s second-half goal.

It ended a nine-game winless run in Sky Bet League One for Michael Skubala’s team, stretching back to November.

A scrappy first half was littered with yellow cards as Albion racked up three inside the first 21 minutes, but it was Lincoln who felt the ire of referee Jeremy Simpson as defender Alex Mitchell was booked twice in six minutes.

Albion struggled to break down a well-drilled Lincoln defence with Tolaji Bola’s deflected shot on the turn their best opening.

Lincoln skipper Adam Jackson should have had the visitors in front on the stroke of half-time but he headed tamely at Burton keeper Max Crocombe.

Ethan Hamilton fired wastefully over in the early moments of the second half, but Hackett showed a more assured touch as he fired home from inside the box nine minutes after the break.

Hackett could have made it more comfortable for the Imps but he hit a rasping shot straight at Crocombe.

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.”

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