Clitheroe coach uses final games to assess squad

Carl Garner
Carl Garner

IF his opening quartet of results are anything to go by Blues fans can expect big things from new boss Carl Garner.

The former Clitheroe chairman has made an impressive undefeated start to life at Shawbridge despite applying an experimental approach to his team selections, tactics and formation.

With 30 players at his disposal and only four Evo-Stik First Division North fixtures remaining Garner has vowed to give each individual a chance to fight for their future at the Ribble Valley club before carving his squad to shape over the summer months.

“The players’ attitude has been exemplary,” Garner said.

“I’ve done three games now and they’ve given me everything. It’s a shame I can only play 11 of them at the moment.

“I’m working with about 30 players and I’m trying to chop and change things so I can have a look at all these players. I still want to be competitive, but when most managers at this stage would be playing their strongest 11, I can’t really afford to do that. The squad is incredibly unbalanced and it needs sorting out.”

He added: “I owe it to the club, myself and the players themselves to have a look at these lads. The current exercise is to win as many games as we can while trying to give everyone an opportunity.

“It’s a building block for next season; I’ve already spotted lots of new options and there’s three or four youngsters with real potential.

“There’s still players who haven’t had the opportunity, but their chance will come” The 1-0 victory at Garforth Town’s Genix Healthcare Stadium at the weekend marked the first triumph for the Blues under Garner’s tenure, but more importantly it was Clitheroe’s first clean sheet in 20 attempts, the last coming in the 2-0 home victory to Prescot Cables at the end of November.

Garner said: “It was excellent and I can’t speak highly enough of the players.

“We defended superbly; I changed the system, the formation, the players and appointed a new captain in Jack Higgins. He’s only 19 yet he responded to the responsibility really well and marshalled the defence brilliantly. It was our first clean sheet since November and 20 games have gone by since then.

“The defence was rugged, hard-working and they kept things simple and worked as a unit. I’ve drilled a much harder mentality in to them when it comes to defending.”

And that victory was followed up with another clean sheet in an astonishing 1-0 victory away at high-flying AFC Fylde.

“We were playing third in the league away from home and we deserved it,” Garner said. “We were in their faces and didn’t give them a chance.

“We bullied them and it was a magnificent performance and result.

And the Blues boss has articulated a desire to be patient when it comes to bringing in an assistant to help take the club forward.

He said: “Things are going great at the minute so there’s no real rush to make a decision, but I’ll know who that person is when I meet him.”