This loss to high-flying Durham City was Clitheroe’s third successive league defeat in a winless run dating back to early January. The latest setback leaves Carl Garner’s side seven points above the relegation zone following Cammell Laird’s victory over Radcliffe Borough, whilst victory has propelled Durham to 6th in the league, level on points with Garforth Town and just one place outside the play-offs.
Chris Smalley replaced Jack Higgins in the only change to the starting line-up from Monday night’s spirited performance at Curzon Ashton.
Durham started brightly and took the lead in the 7th minute when the prolific Amar Purewal scored the first of his two goals with a calm dinked finish over the onrushing Zack Hibbert following a flicked pass from strike partner Stephen Thompson. Purewal and Thompson linked well all afternoon and were a real handful for a Clitheroe defence which appealed in vain for an offside flag as the visitors opened the scoring.
Purewal and Andrew Stephenson had chances to double the advantage before the impressive Thompson struck a post with an angled drive following a surging run from deep.
After Durham’s early dominance, Clitheroe started to get a foothold in the game midway through the half. Their first and best chance of a frustrating opening period fell to Duncan Watmore who robbed full-back Rufus Ayre, beat a couple of covering defenders, but could only shoot straight at Lewis Graham in the Durham goal.
Minutes later Ross Dent
’s looping header from a Bobby Langford corner was cleared off the line. Langford had come on to replace the injured Owen Roberts.
Hibbert was then called into action to prevent Durham extending their lead as he saved well from Stephenson who was one on one after being played in by Evann Graham.
As the game wore on there was plenty of encouragement for the hosts who finished the half strongly with Watmore and Langford looking particularly threatening.
The second half started in similar fashion as the home side raced out of the blocks in pursuit of an equaliser. Within a minute of the restart Ashley Parillon met Lee Pugh’s free kick but his header had insufficient power to overly trouble Graham.
The Durham custodian was to deny Clitheroe again shortly afterwards with a crucial double intervention. He saved first from Watmore, after the striker had charged onto a pass from Pugh and outpaced the Citizens’ defence, before palming behind Oliver Devenney’s rasping drive from the rebound.
Clitheroe were very much in the ascendancy at this stage and Graham clawed away a further effort from Langford before a combination of Kevin Brown and Dent forced a Devenney free kick towards goal. This initial effort was blocked with Monday night’s goalscorer, Ben Waddington, unable to find the net with the follow-up from a tight angle.
Whilst the home side continued to press, Durham looked a constant threat on the break and after 75 minutes Richard Ord’s men doubled their lead and all but secured the points as Gary Shaw found Purewal who produced a lovely lobbed finish over a stranded Clitheroe keeper.
Shortly afterwards Purewal had a great chance to claim his hat-trick but was denied by Hibbert after being picked out once again by Thompson.
Clitheroe refused to give in and continued to probe with further half chances falling their way. It was not until the final minute of injury time though that the deficit was eventually halved. The irrepressible Watmore found substitute Nat Taylor who crossed for Langford to head home his first goal for the club.
Unfortunately this proved to be a mere consolation as time ran out on the home side. This was Durham’s fifth win in six games as their march towards the play-offs gathers real momentum. Clitheroe’s search for a much-needed win continues at Radcliffe Borough next Saturday, a game which now takes on even greater significance after defeat here and results elsewhere.
Special mention should be reserved for Duncan Watmore who was the hosts’ brightest spark during this game and a persistent thorn in the side of the Durham backline. All that was lacking from an otherwise excellent all-round performance was a goal, but the effort and quality he displayed throughout was enough to be given the ‘Man of the Match’ award by the matchday sponsors.
Zack Hibbert, Ashley Parillon, Lee Pugh, Chris Smalley, Kevin Brown (c), Andrew Naylor, Ross Dent
(Nat Taylor 57), Oliver Devenney (Connor Smith 85), Duncan Watmore, Ben Waddington, Owen Roberts (Bobby Langford 26). Subs not used: Jack Higgins, Marcus Calvert
Bookings: Lee Pugh
Lewis Graham, Rufus Ayre, Dan Madden, Craig Harbord, Ross Wilkinson (c), Arjun Purewal, Andrew Stephenson, Evann Graham, Amar Purewal, Stephen Thompson, Gary Shaw. Subs not used: Elliot Cutts, Conor Winter, Jack Pounder, Gary Brown, Jonathon Davis
Bookings: Andrew Stephenson