Clitheroe count cost of cup setback

Carl Garner
Carl Garner

CARL Garner’s Manager of the Month accolade has proven to be the poisoned chalice for Clitheroe FC.

The Blues boss scooped the award for the second time in just three months after winning five of September’s seven fixtures.

But the infamous curse that often haunts the recipient of the award struck at Shawbridge at the wrong time.

Having dumped First Division North league leaders Skelmersdale United and Premier Division outfit Burscough out of the FA Cup, the Blues went in to the second qualifying round against Radcliffe Borough with high hopes.

However, those hopes turned to dust.

Josh Hine sent the Ribble Valley into raptures when he broke the deadlock in the 13th minute, but the visitors levelled just six minutes later through Steven Howson.

And then the Blues fell behind with 20 minutes left when David Sherlock netted, before Ben Wharton ensured it was the Greater Manchester club which progressed.

Clitheroe chairman Anne Barker said: “I’m absolutely delighted for Carl to win the award again – it’s a great achievement.

“He’s still learning the ropes, so any club would be proud of that performance. Carl’s thrilled to bits as well.

“But it turned out to be the poisoned chalice again.

“It’s a great recognition but so often afterwards, it proves to be a kick in the teeth and it could not have come at a worse time for us.

“We were really hopeful of beating Radcliffe but we’ve missed out on the prize money, which would have made a huge difference to our club. Now it’s back to the drawing board.

“If we had beaten Radcliffe, we would have been hoping for a winnable fixture or a draw in the next round, which would attract a good gate.

“The money really does matter, and unfortunately we had the rug pulled from underneath us.”

But what makes Clitheroe’s FA Cup exit even more hurtful was the draw for the next round – they would have been rewarded with a home tie against Northern League Second Division side Hebburn Town.

“The draw really rubbed salt in to the wounds,” Barker added.

“Hebburn are playing at the equivalent of the North West Counties League, so fair play to them for getting this far.

“There’s no guarantee we’d have beaten them, but you’d have thought that we’d be in with a chance.

“There’s some lower league teams left in the competition now that could be heading towards a Sky deal. We’ve missed out big time.”

The burden continued to torment Garner as the Blues were thrashed 5-1 by Kendal Town in the first round of the Lancashire FA Trophy on Tuesday night.

Barker said: “We’ve reached the final before and had the fortune of playing at the Reebok Stadium.

“We like to do well in that competition because it’s a county cup, but we are carrying a lot of injuries and it caught up with us

“We couldn’t sustain our performance from the first half-an-hour so we fell to another defeat.”

Next up for the Blues is a FA Trophy preliminary match against Salford City at Moor Lane on Saturday.

Barker said: “Salford is another money game. The prize money is nothing like the FA Cup but it can still make a difference to us.”

The focus now for the management staff at Clitheroe is to build a settled squad, and slowly integrate essential players returning from injury.

Barker said: “Carl is very disappointed he’s got so many lads he can’t select.

“There’s varying degrees of injuries, but I think there’s also varying levels of commitment, which is frustrating.

“I’m sure it disrupts some players as we’re having to bring new faces in each week. It has a pre-season feel to it.”

Clitheroe return to league action on Monday when they travel to Curzon Ashton.