CLITHEROE laboured to defeat in their final home game of the season against Woodley Sports on Saturday.
An unchanged team was named from Easter Monday’s late win over Lancaster City.
The first half was a lacklustre affair, with the visitors creating the first real chance in the 21st minute when John Marshall showed great skill in beating a couple of defenders before poking wide, having seemingly done all the hard work.
Woodley took the lead after 33 minutes when a ball out of defence was seized upon by Aaron Chalmers, who side-stepped the covering Kevin Brown before deftly dinking the ball over Zack Hibbert.
Clitheroe’s best chance of the half came a minute later as a slack defensive throw-in allowed Alex Johnson to square for Oliver Devenney, who fired in a shot which Woodley keeper Dominic Ingham-Hughes saved with his legs.
The only other noteworthy incident of the opening period was Woodley right back Ricky Anane receiving his marching orders for a two-footed studs-up challenge on Devenney shortly before the interval.
Although he won the ball, it was no surprise when the referee brandished a straight red card.
The second half started along similar lines as the first with Clitheroe making little impact as an attacking force.
The turning point came when Monday’s match-winner Glodi Kuba-Kuba entered the fray, joining Johnson up front.
The change of system gave Clitheroe a greater presence in the attacking third, and Kuba-Kuba played an integral part in the Blues’ equaliser after 62 minutes.
His initial header from Chris Smalley’s cross was well saved by Ingham-Hughes, but Ross Dent was on hand to head home the rebound from close range, scoring his first goal for the club in the process.
This equaliser gave Clitheroe fresh impetus, and the home side enjoyed a spell very much on the front foot.
Jack Higgins, who had replaced Sam Christensen at half-time, saw his looping header grasped by Ingham-Hughes, who also parried a thumping effort from Kuba-Kuba.
From the resulting Devenney corner, the ball eventually fell to Higgins in the six-yard box, only for his shot to be saved and then smothered by Woodley’s keeper.
The Steelmen’s winner came in the 87th minute as a defensive lapse allowed substitute Junior Sylla to play in Jordan Stepien, who produced an exquisite chip to seal victory.
Former Burnley professional Brad Maylett became the second player of the afternoon to be dismissed for his role in unsavoury scenes which followed as visiting players celebrated the goal in front of a section of home support.
Woodley managed to see out time, but not before a golden opportunity to equalise was squandered in injury time when Marcus Calvert glanced a pinpoint Devenney cross wide of the post.
In many ways this was typical end of season fare, with the Blues never really hitting their straps.
Ironically, although Clitheroe’s participation in next season’s Evo-Stik League is guaranteed, Woodley’s battle to do the same is only just beginning. Despite being eighth with this win, it was announced towards the end of last week that the Cheshire club will be relegated from the division at the end of the current campaign, subject to appeal, due to a failure to comply with ground grading regulations.
The final curtain call of the 2011/12 season takes place on Saturday at AFC Fylde, who are currently four points clear of Curzon Ashton with two games to play, possibly giving Clitheroe the opportunity to be kingmakers.
Even if the destination of the league title has been determined by the time Saturday rolls around, there is still a promotion party to gatecrash on a ground where the Blues have an exceptional record.
The match will also be the last with Lee Sculpher and David Burgess in charge of team affairs and the two of them deserve huge credit for the job they have done since taking the reins in early March.
With potentially choppy waters safely navigated, the club can now look forward to a fresh start next season with renewed optimism.
CLITHEROE: Hibbert, Smalley, Pugh (c), Brown, Christensen (Higgins 46), Smith, Fearon (Kuba-Kuba 52), Devenney, Johnson, Roberts, Dent (Calvert 76). Subs not used: Taylor, Naylor.