Carl Garner on a roll at Clitheroe

Carl Garner
Carl Garner

THE Blues have surpassed their highest points total in the non-league pyramid, but that’s the last thing on manager Carl Garner’s mind.

Clitheroe’s stalemate against play-off bound Curzon Ashton on Monday evening saw the Shawbridge side rack up their 63rd point of the season, one more than last campaign with three games still to play.

Prior to that fixture, the Blues recorded a 3-1 victory against Witton Albion on home soil, their first in the Ribble Valley in eight outings.

Nathan Taylor scored in each half, and Ashley Parillon notched his 18th of the season to cement the three points.

Speaking after the 0-0 draw with Curzon, Garner said: “It’s another great result for us.

“It wasn’t a brilliant performance from ourselves but we are still unbeaten.

“And Saturday was fantastic as well and I had chance to try out a few other players.

“We’ve got yet another clean sheet which makes it three out of the last four games. The disappointing thing was that we didn’t play any good football against Curzon, but our defending was absolutely magnificent.

“We didn’t really use the ball well but two games in the space of 48 hours can take its toll. I’m delighted with the result.”

Since Garner officially undertook the managerial capacity, which brought a 2-2 draw with Warrington Town, the Blues have accumulated 11 points from a possible 15, remain unbeaten and have kept four clean sheets in those five matches.

However, Garner is too modest to be contemplating a Manager of the Month award for April just yet.

He said: “I haven’t given it any thought to be honest.

“I just keep thinking how great an achievement it would be to stay unbeaten because of the run in we’ve had.

“I’m realistic so I know a defeat will come eventually but it would be phenomenal to carry it through to the end of the season.

“Every time I set the bar the players keep jumping over it.

“Some of the performances have been colossal. Defensively they’ve been absolutely spot on compared to three weeks ago, when we were leaking goals like a sieve.

“It’s a remarkable turnaround – it’s like watching another team.”

One player expected to sign on contract terms this week at Shawbridge is centre-half Steve Mercer, who has impressed since joining the club from Sunday League level.

“I can’t speak highly enough of the players,” Garner said.

“Some of them have already earned their places for next season.

“Steve has been outstanding in every game and it’s amazing how well he’s handled the step up.

“He’s got strength and athleticism and he wins his battles every week.

“He’s a gem to manage.”

The Blues continue to improve week on week under Garner’s reign, but he admits that this period is only a stepping stone for next season as he looks to drive Clitheroe towards the Evo-Stik First Division North play-offs.

“I hope to get a few more points on the board yet,” said Garner.

“I’m just treating these games like a mini season.

“These players are being given an opportunity, we’re changing it all the time, yet we are still able to grind out results.”

He added: “For next year we’ve got to be looking at the play-offs, that’s got to be the goal.

“That creates pressure in itself for me but that’s fine.

“I’m not here just to turn up, I want to win matches. I’ve installed this new mentality into these players and we will continue to work with that.”

The Blues boss is optimistic with what he’s seen in the Clitheroe camp so far.

But he had planned three scouting trips prior to the tough away fixture with Chorley in the hope of adding further strength and depth to his growing squad of players.

He said: “There will be at least eight or nine players of this current crop who will be members of the squad for next season.

“They’ve proved themselves worthy of that.

“But I’m looking to add some strong left-sided players, an athletic midfielder with a decent range of passing and like every other manager in England, a goal scorer.

“We will be competitive and nobody will enjoy playing us because of our work ethic.

“We have got a good togetherness and strength and it’s there to see.” Ahead of tomorrow’s away fixture against Chorley (kick-off at 3 p.m.), Garner praised his side’s loyal supporters who have followed the Blues home and away.

Clitheroe will then face their penultimate game of the 2010/11 season at home to Lancaster City on Monday (kick-off also at 3 p.m.).