Simon Haworth is urging the Blues to go out with a bang after giving a truer reflection of themselves in the Lancashire FA Challenge Trophy final.
Clitheroe gave 18-time winners of the competition Chorley a real run for their money at the Macron Stadium only to be beaten 3-2 by the Magpies, who are chasing a play-off spot in the National League North.
Haworth’s side had been closing in on a top six finish themselves, two divisions lower down the pyramid, but six defeats in succession made it mission impossible.
After having Matt Jansen’s men against the ropes, the Welshman said: “I was massively proud of the performance. That was as well as we could have played against a team like Chorley who are two divisions above us. We couldn’t have given any more.”
The Blues just didn’t get the breaks at the home of Championship side Bolton Wanderers while the favourites carried a more clinical edge in front of goal.
Captain Danny Brady had a huge opportunity to double Clitheroe’s lead after Kurt Willoughby had opened the scoring while Michael Samson also threatened on a number of occasions from set-pieces.
“When you play like that you just need things to go your way but they didn’t. In games, especially cup finals, you need those moments and we just didn’t get them. I’m hugely proud of them but disappointed because it was there for us.
“They took their chances and that was the difference. We took two of ours but we just didn’t get those little breaks.
“In the first half we won three or four clean headers. If we can just take one of them and go 2-0 up then the game is ours.
“We thought that Danny, Mike and Ian [Rowlands] would cause them problems and they did. Brady’s is a really clean header.
“Currently, as a team, we’re just short of creating those moments and making them happen for us. I’m still hugely proud of the lads.”
The Blues sign off for the season with a couple of Evo-Stik First Division North fixtures at Shawbridge.
Local rivals Colne are first up in the Ribble Valley this evening, with the penultimate game of the campaign kicking off at 7-45 p.m., while Skelmersdale United pay a visit on Saturday as the curtain closes.
“Finishing on a high in the league is massive because they’re better than that,” said the former Wigan Athletic striker.
“We want to win a game. We don’t want that to be on our record because they’ve been excellent for two seasons. They’ve over-achieved massively with where the club is at so I’m immensely proud.
“They are just damaging what we’ve done for 18 months in a way. All of our reputations are on the line really. I want us to sign off with a bit of credit.”
He added: “I just told them to make sure they beat Colne and Skelmersdale. We’ve got two games left, we’re bruised, we’re battered, we’re tired, things haven’t gone our way, but we just want to win those games.
“This team is a lot better than they have been showing and they deserve better than bowing out with a record of seven or eight defeats. That’s the aim now.
“I’ve had most of that group for two seasons and over that time they’ve been excellent. We’ve had a bad five or six weeks but over a two-year period they’ve been excellent.
“For 90% of the time they’ve been outstanding and in the final, when people were doubting them, they’ve shown that.”