Clitheroe boss Smith admires Chester

Peter Smith
Peter Smith

BLUES boss Peter Smith paid tribute to Chester’s quality after Neil Young’s league leaders scored five past Clitheroe for the second time in just over two-and-a-half weeks.

A Michael Wilde hat-trick set the standard at the Deva Stadium early in February, though five different players contributed to the Blues five-star scoreline at Shawbridge on Tuesday evening in front of a bumper crowd of 527.

The Ribble Valley side trailed 3-0 at half-time through goals from Steven Beck (7), Carl Ruffer (12) and Chris Simm (42), before Mark Gritton (54) and Ashley Williams (59) rounded off the scoring for the visitors.

“We took a bit of a drubbing against Chester,” Smith said. “They just have a different class of players and that’s why they are top of the league. You just can’t compete against them. Our lads worked hard and gave everything they had, but at the end of the day Chester had that extra bit of quality; they are going places.”

Chester’s Wilde is the leading goalscorer within the three tiers of the Evo-Stik league with 29 goals, which Smith believes epitomises the quality and proficiency among the Deva ranks.

Smith, who admitted his side were wasteful in front of goal, said: “It’s really tough to compete against sides like that, but we created seven clear-cut chances of our own. That just shows the difference in the class of players because they created chances and took them.

“The better players are prolific and only need one or two chances to score. We did our best and went at them. The chances we created were glorious and they gave us a lesson in finishing. They were ruthless.”

He added: “Chester are going all the way back to the top. They will be playing in the football league again within time. They’ve got quality players and proven goalscorers. It’s testament to the quality within the division, it’s a competitive league.”

Clitheroe continue their steady slide away from the play-off places in the First Division North table, but Smith is realistic about the constant challenges the club faces, especially when put head-to-head with club’s like Chester.

“It was unbelievable looking at their bench. They had two or three lads that have played at conference level on the bench and they would have matched our entire wage bill. They have got the finance and the support, and they are an ambitious club. You’re always going to be up against teams like that.

“My players know what level they need to be at now if they want to go further in their career. That was the benchmark. But I was pleased with the performances of my players. Tom Williams was excellent despite missing some golden opportunities but he looked very dangerous.

“It was a good crowd, especially for a Tuesday night when Manchester United and Chelsea were playing. But on a Saturday I reckon we would have doubled the 500-plus that we had at Shawbridge. It’s great to see teams like Chester come here. It was a great atmosphere.”

At weekend the Blues came from 2-0 down to beat Radcliffe Borough 3-2. A quickfire second- half double from Williams brought Clitheroe level before a late Danny Doherty strike sealed the points.

• The Blues next game sees them travel to Ossett Albion on March 12th.