Clitheroe 2-0 Warrington Town
Clitheroe recorded back to back league wins for the first time this season courtesy of Oliver Devenney’s double in a determined and combative team performance against one of the division’s form sides, Warrington Town.
It was announced this week that Lee Sculpher and David Burgess would be taking charge of team affairs for the remainder of the campaign and the sight of the duo in the home dugout certainly evoked memories of years gone by. Both enjoyed successful tenures in the Shawbridge hotseat and their short reign has already seen an upturn in form, with this victory putting clear daylight between Clitheroe and the relegation zone. The stability and continuity which their appointment brings was reflected in the team sheet as an unchanged starting XI was named, another first this season.
Warrington arrived in sparkling form having only lost once in thirteen games since the turn of the year, a run which had taken them to within two points of the play-offs prior to the game. The Wire even looked to have survived the infamous Manager of the Month curse after boss Joey Dunn was presented with February’s accolade ahead of his side’s midweek victory over Radcliffe Borough at Cantilever Park.
The first chance of a keenly fought first half fell the way of the visitors in the 6th minute as Jack Higgins redeemed himself with an excellent sliding block after his hurried clearance had gone straight to Matty Cross on the edge of the box. Soon after, Dale Wright fired over from Allan Collins’ cutback as the lively forward was released down the left flank by a strong Kyle Hamid tackle in midfield.
Although Warrington looked bright and breezy it was the home side that took the lead with a carbon copy of last Saturday’s winner at Salford. Connor Smith and Devenney combined to find James Davis on the left flank. His ball into the box was meant for Alex Johnson who was needlessly dragged to the deck by River Humphreys. Just as he had done at Moor Lane, Devenney confidently dispatched the penalty to give Clitheroe a 24th minute lead.
The hosts were close to doubling their advantage ten minutes later as a thunderous drive by Glodi Kuba-Kuba from just outside the box flew beyond the despairing dive of Paul Pritchard in the Warrington goal and only inches wide of the post.
Lee Pugh and Johnson fired in shots from range whilst Zack Hibbert made a crucial intervention just before half-time to ensure Clitheroe’s slender lead was intact at the break, saving a shot from Wright with his legs after the midfielder had been played in by Chris Thompson.
Clitheroe’s second half performance was extremely solid as they absorbed any attacking threat posed by the visitors. Warrington continued to play neat football but were afforded very few opportunities in the final third. The hosts coped seamlessly too with the potentially disruptive loss of Sam Christensen early in the second period. Matty Fearon slotted in at right-back after replacing the injured Christensen, who has put in a string of impressive performances since his move to Shawbridge, with Chris Smalley moving inside to form an impenetrable centre-half partnership with Higgins.
The Blues almost extended their lead in the 54th minute as Devenney’s free-kick into the box rebounded to Smalley whose fierce shot from six yards was somehow kept out by Pritchard. Warrington had their keeper to thank once again minutes later as he turned behind a Pugh free-kick at full stretch.
Clitheroe did not have long to wait before landing their knockout blow as the game was sewn up in the 78th minute. Good work wide on the left by Andrew Naylor found fellow substitute Ross Dent who was awarded a free-kick after being hacked down by Humphreys. Devenney’s floated delivery into the box caused uncertainly amongst visiting defenders and bypassed everyone before sailing into the net.
Warrington had little to offer in reply and were restricted to rather forlorn long-range efforts in an attempt to get back into the game. At the other end Dent almost got his name on the scoresheet as his shot from the edge of the box in injury time from Johnson’s lay-off narrowly cleared the bar.
The players were acclaimed for their efforts at Salford last week and Shawbridge to a man showed its appreciation for a deserved victory here. This was an extremely disciplined and committed effort by Clitheroe who restricted a vibrant Warrington side to very few clear-cut chances. Performances of note were rife across the park, none more so than Connor Smith who continues to excel in midfield following his transfer from Barnoldswick Town.
This victory sees the Blues move up to 16th in the league, nine points clear of the drop zone. Over the next fortnight Clitheroe face fixtures against teams currently below them in the league and should go into these games full of confidence after consecutive victories and clean sheets against in-form mid-table opposition. Cautiously optimistic is a phrase which springs to mind when considering the remainder of the season but it is fair to say those shoots are evidently much greener after today.
Clitheroe: Zack Hibbert, Chris Smalley, Lee Pugh (c), Jack Higgins, Sam Christensen (Matty Fearon 49), Connor Smith, Nat Taylor, Oliver Devenney, Glodi Kuba-Kuba (Andrew Naylor 66), Alex Johnson, James Davis (Ross Dent 73). Subs not used: John Osemwegie, Joe Roberts
Warrington Town: Paul Pritchard, Michael Duffy, Owen Roberts, River Humphreys, Mike Tomlinson (c), Matty Cross, Dale Wright, Kyle Hamid, Allan Collins, Chris Thompson (Ross Farron 64), Liam Shipton (Gavin Salmon 64). Subs not used: Andrew Heald, David Ness, Nick Jackson
Bookings: Dale Wright