A late Shaun Connor strike consigned Clitheroe to defeat in a match which for long periods looked as though it would remain goalless.
With Duncan Watmore recalled by Altrincham, Marcus Calvert returned to the starting XI to spearhead the attack. New signing Sam Christensen started alongside Kevin Brown in central defence with Chris Smalley moving to right-back. Ashley Parillon reverted to his more accustomed central midfield role and there was a debut for John Osemwegie as well as a full debut for Connor Smith.
Although both sides showed plenty of commitment and endeavour, there were very few clear cut chances in a cagey first half. Calvert had a couple of snap shots and Parillon flashed a free kick over the bar before Clitheroe’s best chance fell to Smith who was thwarted by Radcliffe keeper Martin Campbell after a neat exchange with Parillon.
At the other end, Radcliffe had the ball in the back of the net twice only for both efforts to be ruled out, the first for a blatant foul on Zack Hibbert and the second for offside. Aside from this, the visitors' defence coped well with anything the hosts had to offer.
Despite goalmouth action being at a premium, this largely scrappy affair was perforated with passages of assured possession from both teams with only the final ball lacking at times.
The second period got under way with Radcliffe looking the slightly brighter attacking force with two presentable openings falling their way in the early stages. Declan Fletcher forced Hibbert into making a smart save following Dave Sherlock’s corner and moments later the same two players were involved again as Fletcher failed to hit the target after latching onto Sherlock’s threaded through ball.
As the half wore on it was looking for all the world as though the match was drifting towards a draw and the spoils being shared. Clitheroe did, however, come close to taking the lead in the 68th minute when substitute Oliver Devenney’s whipped free-kick was superbly clawed away by Campbell to keep the scores level.
The stalemate remained the clear favourite as the game entered the final ten minutes but it was apparent that one goal would probably be enough to claim victory and so it proved. The decisive moment came in the 81st minute as Connor secured all three points for Benny Phillips’ men by firing home a loose ball after Darren Sheridan’s free-kick had caused a scramble in the Clitheroe box.
The margin of victory could have been increased soon after but Ben Wharton failed to trouble Hibbert after out-muscling the Blues’ defence.
The visitors went in search of an equaliser and did have the ball in the net as the clock ticked past the 90th minute mark but celebrations were dampened by a linesman’s flag. Alex Johnson was adjudged offside as he stooped to head home a cross from Connor Smith, who had imposed himself on the game and enjoyed a promising full debut.
Stainton Park has been a happy hunting ground for Clitheroe over recent years but they were forced to leave empty-handed on this occasion as a single goal was enough for Radcliffe to record their third straight home victory and their second of the week.
This defeat leaves the Blues 18th in the league and only four points above the relegation zone following Cammell Laird’s victory over Ossett Town. Some tough looking fixtures lay in wait for Carl Garner’s side between now and the end of the season, starting with third placed Witton Albion at Shawbridge on Tuesday evening.
Radcliffe Borough: Martin Campbell, Lee Woodyatt, Kris King (Andy Bell 80), John Hardiker (c), Shaun Connor, James Mullineux, Dave Sherlock, Matty Carr, Ben Wharton, Declan Fletcher (Matthew Chadwick 64), Darren Sheridan. Subs not used: Daniel Barnett, Steve Burke
Bookings: John Hardiker
Clitheroe: Zack Hibbert, Chris Smalley, Lee Pugh, Kevin Brown (c), Sam Christensen, Andrew Naylor (Jack Higgins 85), Connor Smith, Ashley Parillon, Ben Waddington, Marcus Calvert (Oliver Devenney 64), John Osemwegie (Alex Johnson 77). Subs not used: Nat Taylor, Matty Fearon
Bookings: Lee Pugh, Kevin Brown, John Osemwegie, Sam Christensen