STRENGTH in depth is a luxury that’s often evaded Clitheroe, and boss Peter Smith has seen that weakness exploited in his side’s last two fixtures.
Smith was forced to mix and match defensively for the Evo-Stik First Division North games at league leaders Chester, and at home to Harrogate Railway, due to the absence of trio Ryan Fisher, Kevin Brown and James Heywood.
And when facing former Conference strikers Michael Wilde and Chris Simm at the Deva Stadium against Neil Young’s Chester, it was always going to be a tough ask.
Clitheroe kept the table -toppers at bay for an hour, but once midfielder Iain Howard broke the deadlock, the heavens opened.
Five goals in 15 minutes, which included Wilde’s fifth hat-trick and 30th goal of the season, hit the Blues hard.
And they suffered further detriment as Lydon Hodgkiss was dismissed for handling on the line for the penalty which led to Chester’s third goal.
Smith said: “Against Chester, we were the better team for 60 minutes and we were doing well but they scored five in 15 minutes.
“The sending off was harsh because it’s hit Lydon on his hand while he was laid on the floor.
“It changed the game a bit, because playing against Chester with 11 men is bad enough.
“Their two strikers were playing Conference football last season, and that’s the level Chester are looking to get at.
“We keep giving it our all but sometimes quality prevails and teams like Chester are capable of finishing teams off.
“We have to rely on bringing players through, but they can afford to buy players of that standard.
“But for 65 minutes we were tremendous, and the lads have done very well for me.
“We have conceded a lot of goals, and it’s a problem, but I’m doing my best to sort it out.
“Injuries and bans always hinder any progress, and makes things very hard work.
“We don’t have the quality or the numbers to cover.”
In midweek, Ashley Parillon’s second double in four games helped salvage a point for the Blues against Harrogate Railway, who belied their lowly league position.
The visitors took a three-goal lead with goals from Michael Duckworth, Kevin Ryan and a Paul Stansfield penalty, but Parillon sparked a revival in the 41st minute from the spot.
Substitute Alan Coar halved the deficit in the 83rd minute, before Parillon earned a 3-3 draw in the 85th minute with a sublime strike from 25 yards.
Smith said: “It was unbelievable. I had Ryan Fisher, Kevin Brown and James Heywood out, so with three of my back four missing, I had to mix and match in defence.
“You can sometimes get away with that for a bit, but we eventually got found out and we were 3-0 down after 30-odd minutes.
“When you have injuries and suspensions, the big squads come in handy so it’s hard for us. We don’t have a big enough squad to cope, and we’re not a club that can afford to carry 20-plus players in the squad.
“We’ve shown a bit of character to come back, and we could have gone on to win the game.
“We had two chances cleared off the line at the end but it was a great come back.
“We’ve documented it all season that we concede too many, and now we’ve conceded eight goals in two games.”
But Smith is confident his small squad will pick themselves up and be fully prepared for the visit of Woodley Sports on Saturday.
He added: “It was a nearly performance on Saturday and unfortunately we weren’t quite good enough against Harrogate, but we will pick ourselves up and prepare for Saturday.”