Clitheroe after their highest ever finish

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BLUES boss Peter Smith is hoping that his side can improve on last season’s First Division North standing.

Clitheroe registered their highest ever finish and points tally in the non-league structure during the 2009/10 season, as they scooped eighth spot courtesy of the 62 points accumulated.

Now, although the Shawbridge gaffer hasn’t completely ruled out a play-off berth, he wants his side to climb even higher in a bid to cement Clitheroe Football Club’s transition on the field.

A 1-1 draw with basement side Ossett Albion means the Ribble Valley outfit are currently ninth with 51 points. Rob Turner’s low, driven shot from the edge of the area had given Clitheroe the lead at the WareHouse Systems Stadium, though James Riorden equalised in the 78th minute for the West Yorkshire side.

“We didn’t really play well,” Smith said. “We just didn’t do enough to win the game. But Ossett dug in and they had to, because they’re bottom of the league and fighting for their lives. It was a tough game for us.

“We haven’t been as good as we were, and that’s something I’ll have to look at. We’re not performing, but I know the players will keep digging in. We’ve got Trafford at home on Saturday, who are at the bottom end of the table, and we’ve got to be looking at beating teams like that. Hopefully we can put a run of games together.”

The result now gives Smith’s men 10 games to improve on their league position, and find 12 more points if they are to improve. Smith said: “Realistically we’ve got to try and finish as high as we can. There’s still 30 points to play for. But we know anything can happen and there will still be plenty of twists and turns. The play-offs will be a tall order.”

He added: “I want to finish higher than we did last year which was eighth. I’m still hoping to get around that fifth or sixth spot, but they are all strong teams in that area who have bigger squads than ours. If we finish in the top eight then we can consider it a good season, especially when you consider the changes there’s been in the last couple of months.

“It’s possible. There’s a chance of beating last year’s points tally, but we’ve been so inconsistent since Christmas. We’ve not been able to field a consistent team with the injuries and players moving on, so it’s affected our results and we’ve not been able to put together a run of games.”

Clitheroe now have the luxury of three consecutive home games with Trafford, Garforth Town and Warrington Town expected at Shawbridge over the coming weeks.

However, Smith wants to see an improvement on his side’s form on home soil after taking five points from their last seven games. “This season has been a lot tougher than what it was last year,” said Smith. “I just want to finish higher than last year. We need to perform better at home because we haven’t been at our best. We are usually strong at home, but it’s been our away form that’s been positive. We’ve got three home games on the bounce now, so hopefully we can give our supporters something to cheer about.”