CLITHEROE and Mossley both came into this fixture looking to arrest recent form and get back to winning ways following back to back league defeats. However, for the second time in just over a month they had to settle for a share of the spoils after a hard-fought encounter.
Clitheroe’s starting line-up sported four changes from last weekend’s home defeat to Bamber Bridge. Damilola Ajagbe, Ross Dent, Marcus Calvert and debutant Duncan Watmore were drafted in with Matthew Carr and the injured Ashley Parillon among those to give way. Former Clitheroe striker Nathan Taylor took his place on the Mossley bench.
The visitors were wasteful in the opening stages with Clitheroe’s goalkeeper Zach Hibbert making two vital saves before five minutes had elapsed. Hibbert saved first from Mark Haslam, who could only shoot straight at the Clitheroe stopper when handily placed in the box, and then from Mossley’s giant striker Tom Denton following a good through ball from the impressive Lee Rick. Denton has been a thorn in Clitheroe’s side before and proved a tricky customer for the home defence all afternoon, marrying aerial ability with more than a touch of guile - Qualities which no doubt first attracted the attentions of Huddersfield Town ahead of his move there in 2008.
Mossley continued to probe and carved out a couple more presentable chances but whilst they looked lively in the final third, they did appear less assured at the back in the first half. There was certainly encouragement for the home side and these defensive vulnerabilities were duly highlighted as Clitheroe took the lead in the 18th minute. Ross Dent received the ball wide on the right and, having escaped the attentions of his opponent, whipped in a dangerous cross which Keil O’Brien inadvertently headed past Martin Pearson, the on-rushing Mossley keeper.
The goal gave Clitheroe a foothold in the game and afforded the home side some momentum as the half wore on. Oliver Devenney had a couple of shots from outside the box which narrowly missed the target and the new strike partnership of Marcus Calvert and Duncan Watmore, signed from Altrincham, looked promising. Calvert often dropped off and brought others in to play whilst Watmore showed plenty of tenacity and an ability to run with the ball, beat players and carve out openings in the attacking third.
As half time came, Mossley could perhaps justifiably feel aggrieved going in a goal down but this was an industrious half by the Blues who competed well and battled to keep their one goal advantage, whilst looking more and more threatening.
The opening exchanges of the second half belonged to the Lilywhites who had already wasted a couple of half chances by the time Denton nodded a free kick into the path of Nathan Neequaye on 56 minutes to level matters. Neequaye, who might have done better on previous occasions, rifled a quality finish into the roof of the net from the corner of the 6 yard box.
As the game entered the final half hour, despite there being plenty of endeavour from both sides, it largely petered out in terms of clear cut chances. Jack Higgins and Chris Smalley both produced superb individual pieces of defending to keep the scores tied. At the other end, Watmore continued to be a willing runner, shooting over after winning the ball back well from the Mossley defence. There was good link up play also between Devenney and Joe Roberts, who had replaced Ajagbe just after half-time, a move which saw Matty Fearon revert to right full-back having started proceedings in the middle of the park.
With only a couple of minutes to go, Mossley left-back Ben Fallows received his marching orders following a second caution for a rather crude tackle on Bobby Langford, who had come on to replace Davis for the final couple of minutes.
In the aftermath of the sending off, if there was to be a winner then it was going to be the home side. As the clocked ticked past the 90th minute mark, Clitheroe carved out the last few half chances of the game. Watmore was unfortunate as he was the victim of a nasty bobble as he surged into the box looking for a goal to cap an impressive debut, while Joe Roberts fired over from a not too dissimilar a position from where he scored an absolute cracker against Ossett Albion last season. The final opportunity came when Fearon found Roberts with a quickly taken free-kick and his cross was flicked towards goal by Smalley but without the necessary purchase to overly trouble the Mossley goalkeeper.
Although the visitors possibly shaded the affair on chances, this was a hard fought draw and probably a fair result in the end. Clitheroe hit the road over the next fortnight with consecutive away games, starting next Saturday at Wakefield, which has not been too happy a hunting ground for the Blues in recent years. No better time then to set that particular record straight, build on the point gained in this game and start putting some distance between themselves and the cluster of teams hovering above the relegation places, desperately trying to avoid being dragged into a survival dogfight come Spring.
Clitheroe: Zach Hibbert, Damilola Ajagbe (Joe Roberts 48), Lee Pugh, Jack Higgins (c), Chris Smalley, Matty Fearon, Ross Dent, Oliver Devenney, Marcus Calvert (Owen Roberts 57), Duncan Watmore, James Davis (Bobby Langford 85). Subs not used: Dan Barnett
Bookings: Jack Higgins
Mossley: Martin Pearson, Cavell Coo (c), Ben Fallows, Peter Band, Keil O’Brien, Lee Rick, Mark Haslam (Kayde Coppin 75), Ben Richardson, Nathan Neequaye (Nathan Taylor 66), Tom Denton (Steve Halford 87), Dan Queeley. Subs not used: Alex Byrne
Bookings: Nathan Taylor, Ben Fallows
Sent off: Ben Fallows (87)