Blues boss Simon Garner believes the performance in defeat against Chorley shows just how far the club has come since the Lancashire FA Challenge Trophy final nine months ago.
On that occasion the Magpies eased to victory at the Macron Stadium, home to Championship side Bolton Wanderers, as skipper Andrew Teague, James Dean and Chris Almond netted to help the club claim the silverware for an unprecedented 16th time.
However, it was a different story this time around as Matt Jansen’s men were made to graft for their place in the semi-final of the competition at Victory Park.
Striker Sefton Gonzales gave the visitors the lead five minutes in to the second half when cutting inside his marker and nonchalantly slotting past goalkeeper Sam Ashton.
That lead lasted just six minutes when Dean picked out the unmarked Dale Whitham inside the box and the midfielder guided his header beyond Ben Woodhead.
Louis Mayers and Scott Bakkor had opportunities to restore the advantage for the away side but with 10 minutes remaining a defensive mix-up between Brandon Barski and Danny Brady allowed Dean through and the striker squared for Sam Cosgrove to convert the winner.
Clitheroe fought until the end and almost snatched a deserved late equaliser when Gonzales’s attempt on the turn was blocked. “They were absolutely brilliant but we just couldn’t get that second goal which would probably have won us the game,” said Garner.
“We were the much better team and we created a lot of chances but we just couldn’t get over the line. Unfortunately an individual mistake cost with 10 minutes remaining and even after that we had a great opportunity to equalise with one of the last kicks of the game.
“To outplay a team that’s two divisions above you is brilliant, it’s just a shame we couldn’t cap the performance with the win that we deserved.
“Nobody watching the game would’ve been surprised if we had won. I think Chorley were relieved to have won and progressed. There was only one team playing good football and creating chances and that was us.”
Garner added: “I think that display shows how far we’ve come since last year’s final. We’ve got some good players, a very good collective, and we’ve kept hold of the majority of the squad so that continuity helps. “At the top of their game they’ve shown that they’re a match for anybody. I was really impressed with them.
“They walked off the pitch deflated when they should’ve been holding their heads high.
“They’ve shown what they’re capable of and they’ve got to emulate that in the league now and do it consistently. Everyone one of them was at it from the word ‘go’.”
The Blues travel to Victoria Park on Saturday to take on in-form Burscough.
The Linnets, a solitary point ahead of Clitheroe, have dropped just two points in their last 11 league encounters and have lost just once on home soil.