At one point in the season a top half finish seemed a formality for the Blues.
But five defeats in their last six outings in the Evo-Stik First Division North has severely dented those hopes.
Simon Garner’s side are hovering in 13th place at present, languishing 12 points adrift of mid-table obscurity following the disappointing derby-day defeat to Padiham.
And there won’t be anyone more underwhelmed regarding recent results than Garner himself.
The midfielder has worked wonders in his first full season at Shawbridge; rebuilding the squad from the cinders left behind from Paul Moore’s tenure and helping the club reach the LFA Challenge Trophy final for the second time in five years.
However he would have expected a stronger finish to the campaign, particularly against the Storks who had already had their fate sealed. Defeat to Warrington Town ensured Padiham’s future will be back in the North West Counties Premier Division.
The visitors crafted the first chance in the Ribble Valley when Alex Grice’s header from a Daley Woods delivery flashed over Callum Jakovlevs’ goal.
The Blues responded, with Sefton Gonzales going close on two occasions. The striker’s first effort flashed across the six-yard box while his second was skewed wide when off-balance from Seydou Bamba’s assist.
Louis Mayers missed a glorious opportunity to break the deadlock from close range, but his volley found the arms of Sean Davis after Danny Morton and Ross Dent had combined in the 37th minute. However, the game was goalless at the interval.
Padiham’s Chappy Massamba proved the hero of the hour when etching his name on to the scoresheet. The 20-year-old, signed from French club FC Goussainville, broke free of Bamba and Laquan Esdaille before rifling a shot past Jacovlevs.
Massamba’s second of the game, in the 70th minute, would spark a manic two minute spell in the fixture.
The striker lost Clitheroe’s defensive pairing once again to slot confidently beyond Jakovlevs to make it 2-0 before Woods thumped the ball in to the roof of the net to engineer a three-goal cushion.
Joey Mullen immediately reduced the arrears but bthat would prove a mere consolation as Storks substitute Martin Trickett’s ferocious strike cemented a 4-1 triumph and his side’s fourth win of the term.
The Blues now travel to league leaders Salford City on Saturday, with the 3 p.m. clash free to attend.