CLITHEROE booked their place in the first qualifying round of the FA Cup with a comprehensive win over unbeaten Skelmersdale.
Blues boss Carl Garner hailed the resounding 4-0 win on Saturday as “excellent”, but was not surprised at all by his team’s performance.
“It was the first time I’ve had my first-choice back five available all season, and it showed,” he said.
“In fact, it was the first time I have had more than two available.
“I thought Skelmersdale were fantastic, but we put in a superb performance, and I know that we are more than capable of this when we have everybody available.”
There wasn’t much between the two sides until the Blues opened the scoring in the 26th minute.
A left-wing cross was prodded goalwards by Ross Dent, and as it bounced back off the far post, Ben Duffield made no mistake from close range.
Clitheroe the increased their lead seven minutes later when Eddie Stanford drove home a free-kick from the edge of the area.
The visitors were reduced to 10 men five minutes into the second half, and although they continued to push forward, they were thwarted by an improved defensive display from Clitheroe.
Keeper Zach Hibbert made some important saves before the Blues scored their third goal in the 83rd minute, when Ashley Parillon drove home from close range.
There was just time for a fourth goal in the 90th minute when Alex Brees outpaced the Skem defence and fired home to secure a trip to Burscough in the Firsst Qualifying Round on Saturday, September 17th.
Garner said: “Burscough is going to be a tough game, but we’ve got two important league games coming up first to focus on.
“We play Witton Albion away on Saturday, and then we have Skem at home again on Tuesday.
“They’re obviously going to be difficult games but I’m confident.
“In the last three weeks, I’ve brought in around 10 players and I’m still looking at bringing another two in this week.
“I’ve basically had to rebuild the squad, and to be honest we’re still in pre-season mode really.”
Despite Clitheroe currently languishing near the foot of the Evo-Stik Division One North table, Garner said he has no doubt they will soon be climbing the league again.
“I have no fears whatsoever that we won’t be climbing our way up the league very soon.
“We are a top-10 team when everybody is available. and now we just have to keep plugging away. We’re still in a transition period, but I’m starting to see a bit more light at the end of the tunnel.
“We’re looking a lot physically stronger now, have a lot maturity about us and have added a touch of class to the squad. We’ve got a lot of catching up to do, but I’m confident we can beat anybody on our day.”