Bolton Wanderers 1 Carlisle United 0: Carlisle United’s play-off hopes suffered a serious blow as defeat at Bolton left them five points adrift of the top seven. 

Eoin Doyle’s goal was the difference as the third-placed Trotters won 1-0. 

He pounced for Ian Evatt's side in the 28th minute after a Dapo Afolayan shot came back off the post.

Carlisle staged a strong attempted fightback in the second half and spent the last 20 minutes camped in the home half. 

The decisive chance, though, wouldn’t come despite Lewis Alessandra, Joshua Kayode and Jon Mellish being among those in the thick of the penalty-box action. 

United, who lost Rod McDonald to a ninth-minute injury, ended the night 11th in the table and it is now going to take a dramatic resurgence to force their way back into the promotion picture with four games to go. 

McDonald's early injury came after Kayode - recalled for the sidelined Offrande Zanzala - had been unable to steer home a near-post Callum Guy corner.

News and Star: Rod McDonald suffered an early injury (photo: Richard Parkes)Rod McDonald suffered an early injury (photo: Richard Parkes)

The centre-half stayed down after completing a clearance and could not continue, Nick Anderton replacing him in the middle of defence.

Afterwards, Alessandra got behind the home side but his shot was blocked by a retreating defender.

From then on Evatt's side took control of the first half, carving out opportunities with their passing and movement against a Carlisle side that also included George Tanner, in for Danny Devine.

Ex-United man Gethin Jones broke onto one Doyle pass but nobody was there to convert his cross.

Anderton then cleared a Doyle header off the line following Declan John's left-sided cross.

After Lloyd Isgrove and Doyle had shots blocked, Doyle duly put Bolton in front with his 18th of the season.

United's own attacking efforts were limited though they fashioned one chance when Omari Patrick fed the ball into the box and Anderton controlled and shot, the ball spinning off a defender and wide with Carlisle's handball appeals ignored by the officials.

Bolton then almost snatched a second before the break but Kieran Lee couldn't reach John's cross.

United took time to apply serious pressure in the second half but improved after the hour mark.

Mellish was denied by keeper Matt Gilks and, after sub Harry Brockbank fired over for the Trotters, the closing stages were all United.

A Jack Armer cross picked out Alessandra at the back post but Gilks denied the forward.

News and Star: Alessandra shows his frustration after being denied by Bolton keeper Gilks (photo: Richard Parkes)Alessandra shows his frustration after being denied by Bolton keeper Gilks (photo: Richard Parkes)

Omari Patrick's low cross then flashed just out of Kayode's reach.

United subs Dean Furman and Gime Toure were heavily involved in Carlisle's remaining pressure, which brought a series of corners and another Mellish chance which deflected behind.

Mellish and Alessandra had further efforts while United's remaining series of corners brought keeper Farman forward to no avail, the Blues failing to score for a third successive game.

Bolton: Gilks, Jones, Almeida Santos, Baptiste, Williams, Thomason, Lee, John (Brockbank 58), Alofayan (Delfouneso 72), Isgrove (Elbouzedi 76), Doyle. Not used: Delaney, Tutte, Miller, Gnahoua. 

Goal: Doyle 28.

Booked: Almeida Santos.

United: Farman, Tanner, Armer, McDonald (Anderton 9), Hayden, Guy, Riley (Furman 57), Mellish, Patrick (Toure 76), Alessandra, Kayode. Not used: Norman, Devine, Charters, Walker.

Booked: Riley.

Ref: Martin Coy.