On paper just two places and four points separate Clitheroe from the play-off spots, but Blues boss Simon Garner acknowledges that the foundations for a promotion push require something much sturdier than paper.
After taking charge at Shawbridge in mid-October, following Paul Moore’s departure, Garner has won 20 points from 10 EvoStik First Division North fixtures as the club soared from 19th to seventh.
That haul could have been embellished further had the Blues not surrendered a two-goal cushion against Prescot Cables at Valerie Park at the weekend. Lloyd Dean’s first half double, assisted by George Conway and Keith Wedge respectively, had put Clitheroe in the driving seat. However, the hosts left it late to grab a point through Gerard Murphy and former Blue Isaac Kusaloka.
“We are disappointed,” said Garner. “We were in control for 70 minutes but then fell to the pressure they put on us at the end. It was the perfect non league performance for the majority - we rolled our sleeves up, worked hard and battled, while getting the ball down and playing football when we could. We had a great opportunity to go 3-0 up but then we’ve been punished.”
Garner added: “We want to finish as high as we can in the league and if that takes us in to the play-offs then great. We don’t want to drop from where we are, though that it could happen because we’ve played more games. When we arrived the aim was to stay up but want to kick on and build on what we’ve achieved so far.
“We’ve got to be realistic though. Looking at the position we were in when I arrived, and the players I had at my disposal, it would be a miracle if we climbed into the play-off spots. But we’re nearly there now and we’re not far short of having a very good team. We’re lacking a little bit of experience but we’re on the look out for the right player.”
Clitheroe travel to Throstle Nest to take on Farsley AFC on Saturday. But Garner, who will be without Josh Ollerenshaw after the goalkeeper returned to Fleetwood Town following his loan spell, is relishing the chance to pit his wits against one of the division’s brightest sides: “It’s better to play the teams above you. It’s good quality and it gives you something to aspire to. I don’t see any reason why we can’t go there and beat them.”