A new look Clitheroe have surpassed manager Phil Brown’s expectations in the embryonic stages of the club’s pre-season preparations.
The Blues, now unrecognisable from Lee Ashforth’s tenure, which only expired three months ago, paraded their new appearance in the 4-0 win over Nelson at Victoria Park.
Former Lancaster City boss Brown has welcomed 10 new faces through the door at Shawbridge during the summer and this was the first opportunity he had to run the rule over his players.
The head of football at Myerscough College was left pleasantly surprised by the level of cohesion within his group as two goals from Jordan Darr, a converted spot kick from Conor Gaul and Josh Gregory’s strike sealed victory against the Admirals.
“Anything can happen in terms of scorelines when you go in to pre-season,” he said.
“There are so many different outcomes, but it’s not the main factor that counts to an extent. We were looking at developing fitness and bringing the lads together.
“We were looking at implementing one or two things that we’ve been working on in training and to get the lads out on the pitch, get a bit of running in to their legs and get them enjoying themselves.
“We were right at it from the start. We weren’t pulling out of tackles and we were chasing down those lost causes.
“They worked hard and I was really happy with the players. They certainly exceeded my expectations at this stage.”
This, more than anything, was an exercise in character building, a chance for the squad to solder relationships and formulate partnerships all over the pitch.
Brown was impressed with the structural facets of the performance, which brought a clean sheet, as well as the potency of their attacking play.
All in all it was a good foundation for the new manager to build on heading in to the next five friendlies, starting this evening at home to Blackburn Rovers U23s.
“There are loads of things that we can do better, but it’s a good starting point for us,” said Brown. “I didn’t expect us to be where we are at this stage.
“In the main we kept quite a structured shape. I was really pleased with how they formed partnerships and I was pleased with the output of the lads.
“We want to make the team become more cohesive and develop those football relationships between the players.
“We looked reasonably comfortable defensively and we carried a real threat going forward.
“The front four linked up together really quickly and that’s going to be important. They showed that they were dynamic and effective.”
He added: “We want to install that organisation and discipline. Pre-season has been tough so far, but I was really happy with their mentality.
“Even this early they had that will to win and the desire to step out of their comfort zones in abundance.
“They showed all of that and the result was the icing on the cake. The clean sheet reinforced a few messages because we’ve been doing a lot of work defensively and the goals will give those players a lot of confidence. It was a good workout all round.
“You could see that it meant something to them playing for a new team for the first time. The other lads, who were already here, looked like they had a point to prove.”