HAKAN Burton was in spectacular form as Clitheroe recorded victory over last season’s defeated play-off finalists Curzon Ashton at Shawbridge.
The former Liverpool keeper made some outstanding saves as Danny Mahoney and Danny Bell scored to give the Blues an unassailable lead before Lee Blackshaw’s stoppage time consolation.
Jack Higgins returned to the starting line-up after injury to partner Rob Bodie in central defence, which enabled Will James to reprise his role in central midfield.
Both sides looked brisk in attack in the opening exchanges before a lapse in the visitors’ defence gifted Clitheroe the lead in the 22nd minute.
Mahoney profited from the mix-up, side-footing past stranded keeper Joshua Ollerenshaw from the right-hand edge of the penalty area to score for the second match running.
Moments later Daley Woods fired over after being released by James, before Burton saved low down from Scott Metcalfe after the tricky winger cut inside from the right flank.
Woods had the hosts’ next opportunity after half an hour but could not find a finish after being found by Mahoney’s clipped cross after another forceful run by James.
On the stroke of half-time, Burton made the first of three top-drawer saves, preventing Michael Powell from equalising with an outstanding one-handed save diving to his right.
Two minutes into the second period Tony Evans stung the palms of Burton before the Clitheroe stopper pulled off a good save with his legs to deny the former Blues striker.
Clitheroe weathered the storm at the beginning of the second-half but had to defend well as a team for the remainder of the game.
The back four put in another solid shift while Burton continued to demonstrate safe handling and excellent positioning whenever called upon.
The Blues did not create too many more chances but looked dangerous on the counter-attack as the match progressed and duly wrapped the game up with two minutes remaining.
Gritty battling in midfield by James enabled Simon Nangle to play the ball into the path of substitute Bell who advanced on the penalty area before rifling past Ollerenshaw.
This goal effectively sealed maximum points although there was still time for Burton to complete his collection of eye-catching saves, denying the league’s second highest scorer, Kristian Dennis.
However, there would be no clean sheet as Blackshaw found the net after latching onto Dennis’ hooked ball forward deep into injury time.
This was an important win for the Blues as Curzon Ashton will still hope to be in the promotion mix come April despite not yet hitting top gear this campaign.
Paul Moore’s side now head to Derbyshire to face New Mills (kick-off 3 p.m.) on Saturday.
Clitheroe: Burton, Smalley, Pugh, Bodie, Higgins, James, Nangle, Woods, Mahoney, Buchan (McDonald 90), Devenney (Bell 74). Subs not used: Calvert, Smith, Dykes