Late blow for Clitheroe

Shawbridge, Clitheroe FC
Shawbridge, Clitheroe FC

AFTER losing out in the derby at home to Ramsbottom United on Boxing Day, Clitheroe were denied all three points by a late equaliser at Lancaster City on New Year’s Day.

Clitheroe made a bright start at the Giant Axe and Simon Nangle had the ball in the net after only three minutes but was judged off-side as Danny McDonald parried Chris Dykes’ effort.

Lancaster took the lead on nine minutes after some hesitant Clitheroe defending as Tom Kilifin crossed for former Shawbridge striker Darren Green to slide the ball past Hakan Burton.

The lead only lasted a couple of minutes as Nangle’s free kick to the far post was headed home by Jack Higgins.

Both sides looked to add to their tally with Sean Pearson coming to the Clitheroe rescue, clearing Neil Marshall’s header from a Green corner off the line.

At the other end, Danny Bell teed up Lee Pugh to cross for Danny Mahoney, whose header narrowly missed the target.

With the Blues already without Rob Bodie, Paul Moore had to juggle his defensive resources on a number of occasions throughout the game as injuries struck.

Will James was substituted just before the half hour after suffering a hamstring injury, replaced by Kevin Towey, with Chris Smalley moving to centre half and Dykes to right back.

But Clitheroe held the half-time lead thanks to a goal seconds before the whistle.

Nangle’s low shot from distance was collected by Chris Mason who took a touch before tucking the ball home for his fourth Clitheroe goal.

The Blues were required to be on their guard defensively at the start of the second period, although clear-cut chances were limited.

Shortly before the hour mark, Kilifin fired into the side-netting before Burton kept out an acrobatic effort from Jake Simpson.

Moments later, Higgins blocked Ben Hudson’s drive, with Burton required to tip the full back’s fierce shot from the rebound over the bar.

It was by no means one-way traffic as Mahoney came close to extending Clitheroe’s lead with a header from Nangle’s 65th-minute corner which narrowly missed the upright.

A minute later, Moore had to make a further defensive reshuffle with the limping Pugh replaced by Connor Smith, which meant Pearson dropping back to left back.

With quarter of an hour remaining, Burton saved with his legs from Kilifin who was bearing down on goal.

Despite mounting pressure it looked as though Clitheroe would see the game out with Smalley and Higgins standing firm.

However, with eight minutes remaining the hosts equalised through Gregson, as he volleyed home after a scramble in the box.

Both sides had chances late on, as Mason screwed his shot wide with only the keeper to beat after exchanging passes with Mahoney, before Kilifin’s goal-bound effort was blocked by an excellent sliding tackle from Higgins.

As the game entered stoppage time, Nangle played in substitute Mark Buchan, but the former Witton Albion striker’s shot across goal lacked power.

Ultimately a share of the spoils was probably a fair reflection, with Clitheroe having to assess a number of injuries before Saturday’s showdown with Radcliffe Borough at Shawbridge (kick-off 3 p.m.).

On Boxing Day, in front of a crowd of 357 - the division’s biggest attendance of the day - the Blues went down 3-1 at home to Ramsbottom United as joint-managers Anthony Johnson and Bernard Morley enjoyed their Shawbridge return.

The game was only seconds old when Jon Robinson squared for Grant Spencer, who saw his shot rebound off Burton’s right-hand post.

Spencer was denied again by the bar from a free-kick in the 25th minute, and after Buchan missed the target with a free header from Nangle’s corner, Burton turned Daniel Warrrender’s close range effort onto the bar after a neat touch by Lee Gaskell.

Ramsbottom looked dangerous each and every time they ventured into Clitheroe territory but found themselves behind at the break.

Smalley provided the ammunition with an enticing cross from the right in the 34th minute for Nangle to apply the finish at the far post.

Before the interval, Robinson had two good chances to restore parity as the visitors continued to create presentable opportunities.

The former New Mills forward headed a cross from Philip Dean wide before missing the target after being slipped in by Jordan Hulme.

The visitors finally equalised after 52 minutes as Gaskell latched onto a clever pass from Robinson to clinically rifle a shot into the roof of net.

Gaskell then headed wide from a Dean cross before the same pair combined again with the former’s effort narrowly missing the upright.

In the 78th minute, Woods’ volley reached Dykes after hesitancy in the Rammy defence but the winger was unable to force the ball home.

A minute later Ramsbottom had the lead as Spencer took advantage of an unfortunate slip by Pugh to cross for Gaskell to head home from underneath the crossbar.

Higgins’ goal-bound header from a late Nangle corner was cleared off the line, but with time running out, Ramsbottom broke clear to settle matters as Spencer and Kristian Evans combined to set up Gaskell for his 18th league goal of the season.