CLITHEROE manager Paul Moore is delighted after taking four points from the first two fixtures of the new term.
In complete contrast to last season, where Clitheroe lost five of their opening six fixtures in the Evo-Stik First Division North, Moore guided his side to victory over Garforth Town, before claiming a point against Harrogate Railway Athletic in a six-goal thriller at Shawbridge on Tuesday night.
Two goals from debutant Jordan Williams at Garforth gave Moore the perfect start to his tenure as the Blues’ boss.
Summer recruits Hakan Burton, Rob Flint, Louis Edwards, Simon Nangle and James Gardner joined Williams in making their first competitive starts for the club, while fellow new signings Will James and Danny Bell were named among the substitutes.
The first real chance fell to the hosts but Jadey Ibrahim blazed over after being picked out in the penalty area.
For the rest of the half, Clitheroe largely restricted Garforth to long-range efforts.
Clitheroe took the lead on 13 minutes as Williams converted Simon Nangle’s cross from the right.
The same player very nearly made it two on the half hour-mark only for his shot to rebound off the bar.
The ball had come to Williams after Alex Johnson, released by Nangle’s pass, had seen his initial effort blocked by a combination of goalkeeper and defender.
Early in the second period Jack Higgins was required to clear an attempt from Daniel Sheriffe off the line.
Newly-installed Blues skipper Ollie Devenney had a good opportunity but shot straight at Garforth keeper Shaun O’Neill following a neat one-two with Williams.
The home side’s best chance came after 55 minutes with full-back Josh Greenhalgh screwing wide of the upright after being played in by Luke Sherry and rounding Burton.
Moments later, at the other end, Johnson’s curling effort was well saved by O’Neill.
The second goal, which effectively settled the contest, came on the hour with Williams doubling his tally from Connor Smith’s pas.
As the game entered the final quarter of an hour, substitute Ross Dent fired just the wrong side of the post after being teed up by Johnson, while Marcus Calvert dragged an effort wide as Clitheroe went in search of a third.
On Tuesday, in the first game of the new campaign at Shawbridge, a late Devenney penalty salvaged a point for Clitheroe against Harrogate.
The Blues made a great start, taking the lead inside two minutes as Calvert drilled a shot past Harrogate keeper Lee Ashworth from the edge of the penalty area.
The closest the hosts came to extending their lead was on 33 minutes as Gardner flashed an effort wide after being found by Devenney, while at the other end, Colin Hunter, Phil Myles, Jerome White and Patrick McGuire were all foiled in their search for an equaliser.
The game burst into life after the break.
The first blow was struck by Harrogate as they drew level on 55 minutes through Nathan Cartman’s overhead kick restored parity.
It was a frenetic start to the second half, and Rob Flint’s high ball forward was nodded into the path of Calvert by Jack Higgins, with only a superb save from Ashworth denying the forward his second goal.
Moments later Harrogate had the lead. Cartman played in Greg Kidd down the left and his cross was fired home from within the six-yard box by substitute Daniel Hull.
Clitheroe went in search of an equaliser with Devenney forcing Ashworth into a smart save, before the referee turned away appeals for handball despite his assistant flagging for an infringement.
This mattered little, however, as a minute later Lee Pugh’s cross from the left was headed home by Smith.
Two minutes later, Calvert played in Williams, who found the net only to be penalised for a foul on the keeper.
With 15 minutes left, Harrogate regained the lead, Hunter producing a superb finish from a free-kick which left Burton rooted to the spot.
However, three minutes from time, Clitheroe rescued a draw as a penalty was awarded for a nudge on substitute Danny Bell as he contested Devenney’s corner.
Devenney despatched the spot-kick with characteristic authority to secure a point for his side.
The drama was not quite over as Higgins met Devenney’s free-kick in stoppage time, only for his header across goal to fall agonisingly the wrong side of the post.
Four points from a possible six represents as good a start to a season as Clitheroe have had for six years as the league now takes a break, until Bank Holiday Monday, with Radcliffe Borough making the trip to Shawbridge on Saturday for an FA Cup Preliminary Round tie.