Bolton and Portsmouth tighten grips around automatic promotion

Lawrence Ostlere
Adam Le Fondre celebrates after scoring Bolton Wanderers’ second goal in their win over Shrewsbury Town at New Meadow. Photograph: Craig Brough/Reuters

League One

Bolton Wanderers took another telling step towards automatic promotion to the Championship after second-half goals from Mark Beevers and Adam Le Fondre saw off Shrewsbury Town 2-0 at New Meadow. In doing so Phil Parkinson’s side closed the gap to the league leaders Sheffield United to four points after the Blades were held in a 1-1 draw at Oldham.

• The point was a useful one for the Latics, who continue their push towards safety, but the Shrews are heading the other way and are now only one point above the drop zone after Swindon sealed a crucial win at home to Millwall in the day’s early kick-off, via substitute Conor Thomas’s dramatic 95th-minute winner.

Southend manager Phil Brown marked four years at the club with a third win a row, his side beating Wimbledon to maintain their upward momentum. Nile Ranger registered his third goal in as many games with a fine solo run and Simon Cox wrapped up the 2-0 victory from close range.

Coventry City pulled off a second win in a week – their first successive victories for five months – to keep their remote chances of staying in League One alive for now. George Thomas’s 80th-minute thump into the top corner delivered a 1-0 victory at the expense of Bristol Rovers’ play-off chase. Chesterfield slid closer to League Two in defeat to Rochdale, who scored three first-half goals and never looked troubled in a 3-1 triumph.

Northampton Town and Oxford United played out one of the more memorable goalless draws at Sixfields as both goalkeepers made a string of impressive saves, including Oxford keeper Simon Eastwood’s superb stop from a Matt Taylor penalty.

• And substitute Junior Morais scored a late 25-yard cracker to help Peterborough to a 1-0 win at struggling Gillingham.

League Two

• With the top two – Doncaster Rovers and Plymouth Argyle – set to meet on Sunday, Portsmouth took the chance to close in on the leaders with what turned out to be a nervy 2-1 victory over struggling Newport County at Fratton Park, and the three points looked even better for the leading trio come the end of the day, what with Stevenage stumbling in a stalemate at Cambridge, and Luton beaten 2-1 at Colchester. The results leave Pompey six points clear in the third automatic promotion place with only seven games to play.

• Exeter City were 3-0 down with 87 minutes gone at St James’ Park but pulled off a stunning turnaround to salvage a point and shock Yeovil Town. Late goals by David Wheeler, Troy Brown and Reuben Reid ensured the Grecians remain seventh and in the play-off places.

Wild scenes in injury-time after Exeter’s equaliser. Photograph: Hunt/ProSports/Rex/Shutterstock

Slumping Carlisle are suddenly in danger of missing out on the play-offs and their woeful form continued with a 2-0 defeat at home to Crewe, in which the United striker Shaun Miller was shown a straight red card for a reckless lunge on Oliver Turton. The result saw Carlisle, winless in their past seven league games, drop to eighth, leap-frogged in the table by in-form Blackpool, who downed Hartlepool United thanks to Kyle Vassell’s late winner at Bloomfield Road.

Mansfield condemned Morecambe to their sixth successive defeat and in doing so moved within a point of the play-off places. They began the day on the same points as Wycombe but Wanderers stuttered in defeat to Notts County, courtesy of Shola Ameobi’s first-half strike. Back-to-back wins for County have all-but ensured their League status for another year.

• Defeat at Fratton Park prevented Newport from making any ground on Cheltenham, who lost 3-1 at Barnet, and keeps the Welsh club on course for relegation to the National League along with bottom club Leyton Orient, who were beaten 3-0 by Crawley Town.

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