GAINING promotion to the Evo-Stik Premier Division remains the ambition of Clitheroe boss Carl Garner.
It’s unlikely a top-five finish will be gained during this unforeseen campaign of transition, with the Blues trailing the division’s play-off places by 18 points, but Garner still has plenty of desire, ambition and belief for the future.
“My goal was to make the play-offs this year but that is unlikely to happen,” said the Blues chief.
“However, my goal remains to get this club promoted to the Evo-Stik Premier Division.
“That’s always been my goal, and this club has got another promotion in it yet. Everyone is very positive.”
Garner’s start to life in management has been a strenuous test, which he has countered and withstood in admirable fashion.
A positive opening chapter, coupled with a Manager of the Month awards, was followed by a constant chopping and changing of personnel and the absence of an assistant manager, which saw performances and results suffer significantly.
But the Ribble Valley club is now back on track with a blossoming young squad of players, which has raised optimism around Shawbridge with 2012 on the horizon.
“It’s been a roller-coaster,” declared Garner.
“From the club’s perspective, we are not a million miles away from where we were a year ago.
“I ended up going from chairman to manager, we went on a decent unbeaten run and just missed out on the play-offs.
“We came in to this season with high hopes, but it’s been difficult.
“In the space of four months, we’ve had a complete re-build, which I didn’t envisage.
“Sometimes circumstances go against you.
“We are on the right lines now, and the biggest positive is that we’ve got some quality young players.
“We just want to keep inching forward, but we are not setting ourselves any targets just yet.
“We are just going to take things week by week.
“The bulk of these players will be here next season – they are a decent set of lads in the right budget scope, so in the long term we are in a great position.”
But Garner refuses to rest on his laurels as he strives to continue the influx of youth and partner it with drops of experience.
The latest additions to the club is former Blue Owen Roberts and youngster Josh Dale, who has been playing in Spain for CF Palencia in Segunda Division B – Group Two.
The former was included in the starting XI as Clitheroe defied the odds to beat high-flying Lancaster City 2-0 on Boxing Day.
“It was really good, I was really pleased with them,” Garner said.
“We had Marlon Broomes and Chris Smalley suspended, so that was two of our normal back four we had missing.
“We had four teenagers in the starting line-up as well, so it was a great win against a team that was in the top five on their own soil.
“We’ve changed the system and the way we play slightly, reverting back to 4-4-2 and it’s paying off.
“I’m really pleased with the players – the attitude has been superb.”
Clitheroe now travel to face Durham City on New Year’s Eve, with the kick-off at 1 p.m.
And Garner is keen for his side to keep picking up the points, in the hope of earning a respectable league position.
He said: “We go to Durham now with an early kick-off on a plastic pitch, which poses its own set of problems.
“They are a young side like us who play good football, which is probably down to the surface they are used to.
“It’s a bit false because there’s no tackling, but it will suit a few of our lads.
“We’ll go there with confidence on the back of a good win.
“We just want to keep getting points on the board, and edging ourselves away from the bottom end of the table.
“We are not saying everything is fine now, but if they keep working as hard we’ll be a good side.
“Some of our performances and results have shown that we can be a match for any side.
“We just need to find that consistency.
“Lee Sculpher’s contribution as my assistant has been superb since he joined me.
“His work ethic is exemplary, and it’s starting to rub off on the players.”