It’s been a case of all guts but no glory for Clitheroe so far this season, and boss Simon Haworth is desperate to change all that with five league games remaining.
While the Blues haven’t accrued any silverware for their phenomenal efforts this term, the club still has the chance to finish in the Evo-Stik First Division North play-off spots.
Having fallen at the final hurdle in the Lancashire FA Challenge Trophy, the Ribble Valley side were edged out by Grantham at the South Kesteven Sports Stadium in the semi-final of the Integro League Cup on Tuesday night.
The Blues, who had beaten Premier Division outfit Workington in a previous round, couldn’t emulate that result despite goalkeeper Chris Thompson providing them with an early lift when saving Luke Shaw’s penalty.
However, the hosts took the lead in the 34th minute when Lee Shaw closed down a clearance before lifting the ball over Thompson.
Shaw then doubled the advantage shortly after the break when Shaw glanced home his second of the evening from a Danny Meadows delivery.
Kurt Willoughby pulled a goal back for the visitors but, despite a spirited effort, they were unable to force a penalty shootout.
“It was good, a nice experience,” said Haworth. “We had a go but we were just that bit short in all departments. We gave everything we ha,d but when you play teams from the leagues above you need things to go your way.
“Unfortunately that’s been the story for us really in a lot of big games. Grantham played well and were at it. We played as well as we could, but they were a very good side.
“We haven’t really faced opposition like them this season. They were fitter, sharper, better footballers and stronger in all departments really. It was a good learning curve for the lads at our club who want to climb the ladder.
“It was an eye opener for them to see what kind of standard they need to be at. That’s what some of the younger lads are aspiring to.
“They are going for promotion in their own league, so it was a great effort to get back in the game and stay in it. It was a hard tie.”
Clitheroe travel to Ewen Fields on Saturday to take on Hyde United in their bid to bolster their hopes of finishing in the top five.
With Bamber Bridge also visiting Shawbridge on Tuesday, Haworth said: “They’ve worked wonders to get there because they’ve won some big games to do it. It’s been a great season and we’ll realise just how good it has been when we look back on it.
“The players have represented the club well so they’ve got to enjoy it.
“It’s a sign of progression and we’re still in with a shout of getting in there. We need to go on to do something special now. This could be our big moment. It’s still there for us.
“They’ve done everybody proud and they’ve provided a great foundation to build on.
“It’s very tight. They’ve won three back-to-back games which is another step in our progression, and that’s huge credit to the lads. We’ve picked up some very good results which has given us a chance.
“It’s going to be a real dog fight so we just need to get as many points as possible. It’s been a tremendous effort but I’m desperate for the lads to take this chance and get some reward. One big performance can make the difference.”