Phil Brown felt that Clitheroe’s FA Cup tie came too soon for his new look side, but he expects his players to benefit significantly from their first competitive fixture as a group.
The Blues were beaten 2-1 by 1874 Northwich in the extra preliminary round of the competition in front of nearly 400 fans at Shawbridge.
The home side fell behind to Matthew Woolley’s strike as early as the sixth minute, but Terry Cummings levelled things up just before the hour mark.
However, it was the visitors who progressed to the next round thanks to Jake Parker’s goal 10 minutes later.
“The game itself showed that one team was in a more advanced stage than the other in terms of readiness for the tie,” said Brown.
“My lads are fit, we’ve had the monitors on them, I know how hard they’ve worked, but you can’t replicate that competitive match sharpness, mentally or physically, in a training session.
“They had an edge, having played twice in the league already, and their phases of play were more consistent. We made basic errors, our decision making was poor.
“In the first half we didn’t really function like we will do once we get going. There were a couple of situations where we could have asked questions if we had gone about things a little bit better.
“We came in to it in the second half, we were more of a match, and I could see the equaliser coming. We played more freely, we were fluid.
“Ultimately we paid the price as we grew in confidence. We pushed forward and we were caught on the counter, which flattened us. In the end we just huffed and puffed.”
Clitheroe begin their BetVictor Northern Premier North West Division campaign at home to Brighouse Town on Saturday and Brown is expecting his squad to be more cohesive.
Brown understands that Rome wasn’t built in a day, his project is one that will grow over time, but he wants to continue seeing progression on the pitch.
“There were positives to take from a difficult game played in difficult conditions,” he said. “It was the FA Cup so we don’t get another bite of the cherry, but we will come on massively for that game. The timing of it just wasn’t good for us.
“We’ll take the defeat on the chin and move on. We kept going, our physicality was good and the competitive nature of the game will help the players develop. We know exactly what we need to do to get a positive result against Brighouse on Saturday.
“We had eight debutants and 14 new players in a squad of 17. It’s going to take a bit of time for them all to settle, but they’ve had that experience of playing together now. I expect us to step things up again like we have been doing in pre-season.
“We’ve been looking more threatening and sharper in every game and I think we’ll continue to progress.
“Our decision making and intensity will be sharper, we’ll be more switched on mentally. We won’t make as many errors with more games under our belt.
“Generally, our play and understanding will be more cohesive within each unit.
“Northwich were first to the ball so we’d like to be a bit more on the front foot. We want to be proactive, rather than reactive. There’ll be plenty of bumps in the road, but we’ll keep getting better.”