PAUL Scholes was left fuming with the referee as he watched Oldham Athletic’s faint hopes of making a late play-off surge were all but ended following a 2-0 defeat at table-topping Lincoln City.

The Latics faded after a bright start and fell behind to Harry Toffolo’s well-taken goal after half an hour.

Their task was made even harder when Jose Baxter received a straight red just before the break for a wild tackle on Harry Anderson.

And the Imps made the most of their numerical advantage when Harry Rowe wrapped up the game just before the hour mark.

Lincoln then saw out the game with ease as Scholes’ strugglers extended their winless run to six matches, a fact that left a bitter taste in the mouth of the Manchester United legend.

“The red card was caused by the referee, there was so much going on after the ball that went unpunished, that he was not pulling up,” he said of Baxter’s dismissal.

“I have lost my temper and I can understand why Jose has done what he has done. I am not condoning it, but from experience I know why he has done it.

“From looking at it, it looks like a red card; at the time I thought it was a red card, a certain red card.

“When you have a referee that is not strong enough, that is what happens."

The Latics made just one change to the starting line-up from last Saturday's 1-1 draw at Cambridge United with Christopher Missilou coming in for Zak Dearnley.

And they started in confident fashion with Baxter testing Matt Gilks with an effort from distance inside the first minute.

Gilks had to palm away Mohammed Maouche’s long-range curling effort on five minutes.

Baxter scuffed an effort straight at the keeper soon after as the visitors continued to set the pace.

Dan Iverson saved from Tom Pett on 16 minutes as Lincoln hit back with a fast counter-attack.

Oldham received a major let-off a minute later when John Akinde blazed over from five yards out after Bruno Andrade’s cross carved open the defence.

Referee Paul Marsden waved away a shout for a home penalty after Matt Rhead went down under pressure from Peter Clarke on 24 minutes.

But the home pressure paid off when Toffolo brilliantly slotted home on 30 minutes after a one-two with Mark O’Hara played him in.

Baxter received his marching orders on 42 minutes for a late lunge on Anderson, which sparked a mass player brawl.

Andrade rattled the crossbar three minutes after the break as the Imps looked for a killer second.

Toffolo had a shot well blocked by a lunging Rob Hunt as Oldham continued to cling on.

But it was game over when Rowe lashed a powerful effort into the roof of the net on 58 minutes.

Iversen spread his body well to keep out Andrade a minute later as City threatened to run riot.

Cian Bolger then sliced an effort over when unmarked 12 yards out on 63 minutes, before Iversen did well to tip away Andrade’s 25-yard free kick at the expense of a corner.

Rowe fired over on 75 minutes before he shot inches wide with five minutes to go as Lincoln saw the game out.

But in spite of his anger at the performance of Marsden, Scholes made sure to praise the encouraging start his side made to the fixture.

“I was really happy with the players, we started really well the first 15 minutes,” he said.

“Their keeper made a good save but after Jose Baxter’s sending off it was obviously going to be a long night.

“The effort of the lads was fantastic, and we defended brilliantly.”

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Subs: Dearnley 6 (for Afolayan 44), O’Grady 5 (for Nepomuceno 64), Vera 6 (for Maouche 64).

Subs not used: Iacovitti, de la Paz, Benteke, Sylla.

Lincoln City: Gilks 6, Eardley 7, Bolger 6, Bostwick 7, Toffolo 9, Anderson 6, O'Hara 8 (O’Connor 81 5), Pett 6, Carvalho Andrade 9, Rhead 7 (Rowe 45 7), Akinde 8 (Roberts 88 5).

Subs not used: Vickers, Wilson, McCartan, Watkins.

Referee: Paul Marsden.

Att:8,454 (259 away).