Smart Alex is Clitheroe cup hero

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CLITHEROE saw off derby rivals Radcliffe Borough in their FA Cup preliminary round replay on Tuesday night with a goal from Alex Johnson.

The sides had drawn 2-2 at Shawbridge on Saturday, but the Blues edged home at the second attempt at Stainton Park with a last-minute winner.

It maintained the Blues’ unbeaten start to the new campaign, and they will now travel to face Skelmersdale United in the First Qualifying Round on Saturday.

On Tuesday, with Chris Smalley returning to the defence and boss Paul Moore adopting a flat back-four, the Blues looked a more solid outfit.

The first half was quite scrappy, though Radcliffe had early chances as a snap-shot just went past the post, before a free-kick eluded everyone, when all it required was a touch.

Slowly, the Blues started to impose themselves and, on 25 minutes, after Lee Pugh had scuffed a free-kick which was cleared back to his feet, he hooked the ball to Johnson’s feet, who danced past one man but then screwed the ball wide.

This was a prelude to a purple patch for the Blues before the break.

Danny Bell burst down the wing and cut inside before laying the ball on to Simon Nangle, who blasted narrowly wide from 25 yards.

And a minute later, Johnson burst down the right and sent a scudding ball across the box, with desperate lunges not able to prod it home.

Finally, just before the
half-time whistle, Jordan Williams was put through, but he poked the ball wide.

Kicking up the hill in the second half suited the Blues, and they dominated possession for long periods.

Johnson won a free-kick on the edge of the box, which was taken quickly, leaving him two yards from goal and the defence flat-footed, and yet he contrived to miss.

On 55 minutes, Johnson again controlled a high ball on his chest, dropped it to his feet and hit it high over the bar from six yards.

Radcliffe’s only real chance fell to the ever-dangerous Ben Wharton, who sprang the offside trap, but was foiled well by Hakan Burton.

With time runnning out, however, Clitheroe got their reward when a quickly-taken free kick on the edge of the box went into a melee of players, with a touch by Ollie Devenney leading to a prod home from Johnson, before he was engulfed by his team mates.

Clitheroe: Burton, Smalley, Pugh, James, Higgins, Smith, Nangle, Devenney, Williams, Johnson, Bell. Subs not used: Gardner, Dent, Naylor, Flint, Calvert, Stephenson, Mottram.

• On Saturday, it took another last-gasp goal, this time from sub Jon Stephenson, to earn a 2-2 draw and a replay.

An unchanged starting line-up was named from the midweek draw with Harrogate Railway Athletic.

Clitheroe started brightly, but were unable to create any presentable chances, and Radcliffe became increasingly prominent, nearly taking the lead after quarter of an hour, though they were denied by the woodwork as Matthew Chadwick’s looping header cannoned back off the crossbar.

Moments later, a defensive lapse allowed Ben Wharton to tee up Reece Kelly, who blazed wide when well-placed.

Burton then denied the lively Chadwick after he had raced on to a Richard Battersby forward ball.

The hosts had a great chance to take the lead in the 26th minute as Burton’s long clearance was played into the path of Williams by Calvert, only for the young forward to be denied by Radcliffe keeper Nick Culkin as he bore down on goal.

Radcliffe took the lead in the 34th minute when Chadwick produced a neat chipped finish to the far post, after his corner from the right had found its way back to him.

But Clitheroe equalised three minutes later, Nangle side-footing home his first goal for the club at the second attempt after Devenney’s
free -kick had fallen kindly to him in the box.

The hosts were level for only a matter of minutes as Rob Flint inadvertently headed Battersby’s inswinging
free-kick into his own net.

Moore made a double substitution at half-time which saw Will James and Stephenson make their competitive debuts for the club, and both came close to restoring parity early in the second period.

Stephenson’s shot following Connor Smith’s throughball was deflected wide, with James meeting the resulting corner from Pugh, only for his effort to drift narrowly wide of the upright.

The visitors missed a couple of chances to seal victory as the game was drawing to a close.

Burton denied Tom Brooks after he had latched onto Wharton’s flick, while Wharton himself fired wide late on.

Clitheroe looked destined to bow out, but their persistence paid dividends with a leveller in the dying embers of the match.

From an initial James Gardner corner deep into stoppage time, Williams headed Pugh’s cross onto the underside of the bar, with Stephenson smashing home the rebound from close range.

Clitheroe: Burton, Flint (James 46), Pugh, Higgins, Edwards (Johnson 61), Smith, Nangle, Devenney, Williams, Calvert (Stephenson 46), Gardner. Subs not used: Naylor, Dent, Bell, Mottram.

On Saturday Clitheroe are at home to Burscough in the league, before a trip to Mossley on Tuesday.

• CLITHEROE have awarded goalkeeper Hakan Burton with a contract with an option for a further year.

Burton has impressed since he arrived back in this country from playing in Turkey.

He started his career at Shrewsbury as a youth player before moving to Liverpool.

Burton then moved to Gaziantepspor, where he had a full season in Turkey.