BLUES boss Carl Garner has hailed this weekend’s FA Cup tie as one of the biggest fixtures in the club’s history.
Clitheroe face Radcliffe Borough in the FA Cup second qualifying round after knocking out Evo-Stik First Division North table-toppers Skelmersdale United and Premier Division outfit Burscough along the way.
“The FA Cup is massive for the club,” said Garner.
“I think there’s about £4,500 in prize money at stake for the winners of this tie, and obviously it’s an opportunity to take Clitheroe further than we’ve been in the competition, certainly in the modern era anyway.
“It’s the biggest fixture I can recall for us since we went down to Kettering and got beat 10-1 in the third round of the FA Trophy five years ago.
“Whoever wins it will probably be the lowest ranked team remaining in the draw, and there’s a great chance of getting a plum tie.
“We’ve worked hard to get here, and we’ve beaten some tough sides.
“Now we’re playing a club at a similar standard to ourselves.
“It’ll be a tough game against Radcliffe, and they will certainly fancy it as well because it’s a great opportunity for both teams.
“We’ve had a good month and we’re playing well – we’ve only lost one game against Skelmersdale.
“It’s been a big transition since the start of the season, and we’ve had to deal with a stack load of injuries.”
The Blues go into Saturday’s clash at Shawbridge in high spirits after beating Farsley Celtic 2-1.
Josh Hine and Jack Higgins scored to give the Blues their third league win of the season.
“The lads were marvellous on Saturday against Farsley,” Garner said.
“The young players stood up to a big, strong and physical team and they weren’t intimidated at all.
“Not only are they youngsters, but they are youngsters with some substance and character to them.
“There were long periods in the game where we had to hang in there and match them physically.
“We are slowly getting to a happier place.
“I’ve got more confidence in my squad, and players are fighting tooth and nail to get in to the team.”
Garner’s been blessed with a talented influx of youngsters at Shawbridge in recent weeks, and he’s confident that this group of players will serve the club well in the future.
Hine is the latest player to have impressed the Clitheroe chief, and he has been rewarded with a contract.
Garner said: “We’ve got a great young team and a good team spirit at the moment.
“I’ve had two teenagers playing full-back in the last two games, James Smart and Ben Jackson, and they’ve taken their opportunity with both hands. They’ve been fantastic and are very good prospects.
“Josh Hine, who spent pre-season with Southport, has been offered contract terms.
“He’s been brilliant for us so far.
“He’s got jaw-dropping pace, and nobody can get near him. He’s a phenomenal player.”
And Garner has added another major coup to the squad, drafting in Carl Osman, the brother of Everton’s attacking midfielder Leon.
Garner said: “He can play anywhere in midfield or up front. He scores goals and he’ll be a good signing for us.
“He’ll be the marquee signing for the club.
“He’s as good a wide player as there is in this league and in the Premier Division.
“I’m looking forward to integrating him in to the side.”
Now Garner just wants some of his walking wounded to return and continue the steady progression at Clitheroe.
He said: “We still have seven players on the treatment table, but fingers crossed we will have some of them back for the weekend.
“We’ve been without the experienced Marlon Broomes for two games, and won them both.
“That’s testament to the boys who have come in.
“The target is to keep progressing.
“We will continue to bring better quality players in.
“Our recent results shows the strength in depth that we are starting to develop here at Clitheroe.”