Joel Shooter looks at the main talking points from the latest Sky Bet League One and Sky Bet League Two action.
After letting a three-goal lead slip against Bolton on Boxing Day and missing the chance to go top, Carlisle made amends at the start of 2021 with a 2-0 victory over Walsall.
The Cumbrians took the lead in the 26th minute, with good work from Lewis Alessandra allowed Taylor Charters to play in Omari Patrick, who slammed in his third goal in four games into the top corner. Then in the 78th minute, Josh Kayode rounded of an impressive Carlisle display as he calmly finished off Joe Riley’s cut back to the edge of the area.
With postponements and abandonments affecting Carlisle’s promotion rivals, the win sees the Cumbrians claim top spot with a one point lead over second place Newport.
This comes after a difficult Christmas period, which saw a defeat to rivals Forest Green as well as their disappointing draw against Bolton. For Walsall, their charge on the play-offs looks to have fallen by the wayside.
A run of six games unbeaten and four straight wins was halted on Boxing Day by defeat to Salford, before losses against Scunthorpe and now Carlisle in the space of a week have seen the Saddlers drop off.
Hull have endured a difficult festive period as they fight to win promotion back to the Championship. Three straight December defeats - including losses against struggling Shrewsbury and promotion rivals Portsmouth - as well as postponed matches have seen the Tigers lose top spot in League One.
However, they were able to get back on track on Saturday as they claimed a 2-0 victory against play-off chasing Charlton. Hull spent most of the game in control, and took the lead in the 18th minute after Hakeeb Adelakun was on hand to hammer home Mallik Wilks’s cross from close range.
The second-half then saw the Addicks go down to ten men as Darren Pratley was shown a red card for an off the ball incident in the 63rd minute. And 15 minutes later, the Tigers sealed the win through Greg Docherty’s top corner strike from the penalty spot after being set up by George Honeyman’s delightful back-heel.
The result sees Hull move back into second ahead of Portsmouth after their defeat to Pompey in mid-December. They remain four points behind leaders Lincoln.
Charlton, meanwhile, remain in the play-offs after falling to their first defeat in four games. Wins have proved hard to come by of late for the Addicks though - after six straight victories going into November, they have won just twice in nine league matches.
Mansfield are yet to pull up many trees since Nigel Clough took over as manager in November, but a run of ten league games with just two defeats has seen the Stags start to slowly creep up the table.
They faced a stricken Port Vale side with just one win (bizarrely, a 6-3 victory away at Bolton) in 12 games on Saturday, and took a first-minute lead as Ollie Clarke crashed home from a tight angle after Harry Charley’s effort was tipped onto the post.
Then in the 32nd minute, Jordan Bowery was on hand to make it 2-0 to the Stags as he finished powerfully from close range after George Maris’s ball into the area. The second-half would see things go from bad to worse for Port Vale as captain Leon Legge picked up his second booking in the 47th minute.
The Valiants were able to hold out for 30 more minutes but fell to a third after Bowery coolly tucked away from the spot following a trip on Charsley. And in the 80th minute, Bowery claimed his hat-trick as he provided an accurate finish from the left side of the area to put the Stags four ahead.
It could have been even worse for Vale, but they were spared the humiliation of a fifth as Tyrese Sinclair sent a late penalty wide. Mansfield now lie in 19th and close the gap between them and Port Vale in 17th to just two points.
Prior to the season kicking off, 2019/20 play-off semi-finalists Oxford were seen as one of the contenders for promotion, but a poor start saw the U’s battling in the relegation zone. However, Oxford have since been able to turn things around and claimed their fourth consecutive victory with a 5-1 demolition of a sorry Burton side, who saw manager Jake Buxton sacked last week.
Matt Taylor gave the U’s the lead in the 9th minute as he lobbed the onrushing Kieran O’Hara, before Olamide Shodipo curled in a delightful second from the edge of the area. Shodipo then grabbed his second of the match and fourth in four games in the 31st minute as he turned home Sam Long’s well weighted cross from close range.
Kane Hemmings pulled one back for Burton just before half time with a tap in on the goal line after Stephen Quinn’s deflected shot hit the post, but it would prove to only be a consolation for the Brewers as Oxford continued to punish them in the second-half.
Joe Ruffels struck a firm and accurate fourth from long range in the 56th minute, before joining Shodipo with a brace as he claimed his second and the U’s fifth soon after as he ably turned in another cross from Long.
It means that Oxford now climb up to 12th and are just four points off the play-offs in a tight top-half of League One. Burton remain rooted to the bottom of the table and eight points adrift of safety. Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink, returning as Burton manager with Dino Maamria as his assistant, will unarguably have his work cut out to keep the Brewers up.