Wilczynski, Ja Gregory, Thompson, Jefferies, Snowden; Jo Gregory, Hazeldine, Bianga, Wood; Anoruo, Recizac. Subs Daniels, Cannon-Noren, Sloane, not used, Ashforth.
Pocklington, C. Davis, Lilley, Hodgson, McNab, Charlton, Page, Armstrong, Moan, Davison, Larkin. Subs O’Neill, McGuinness, J. Davis.
Apologies if this report reads as a little bit unlikely; I was there and I can’t believe it.
Our first ever visit to Clitheroe, a lovely town in Lancashire, and a great little ground, although by no means the flattest pitch I’ve ever seen. A good crowd had gathered, and one thing is for sure, none of them will forget this game in a hurry.
RCA were missing a few key players, not least at centre back, but nonetheless fielded a strong looking side. The game started at quite a pace, and it was clear from the off, not least from the insistent shouts from the Clitheroe management team, that the hosts were intent on playing quickly and directly up to their front runners. And it wasn’t a bad tactic, given the quality of those strikers.
The first clear chance however fell to RCA on five minutes when a good ball across the area was directed just past the post by Mark Davison as he slid in. The game was going from end to end and Clitheroe took the lead when hesitation and miscontrol on the edge of the box was seized on by Obi Anoruo who finished well, giving Scott Pocklington no chance. Clitheroe were clearly lifted by this and pressed strongly, until on 18 minutes Clayton Davis conceded a penalty which Wood buried for the home team. Colin Larkin limped off to be replaced by Nathan O’Neill. On the half hour it got worse as Josh Gregory got on the end of a cross to give Clitheroe their third. RCA were rocking at this point, although still looking capable of scoring through the occasional burst forward, Larkin and Page both having chances. Late in the half it could have got worse as Clitheroe had a goal disallowed for a marginal offside.
Half Time 3-0.
Swaz responded at the break with a bold substitution which saw Mark Davison depart, Jonny Davis coming on and replacing Luke Page who moved forward to join O’Neill up top. It didn’t work immediately as within two minutes of the restart Anoruo was left in acres of space to score his second and Clitheroe’s fourth. It looked a long, long way back at this point. But on 49 minutes a great solo run from Luke Page saw him hammer a shot past the keeper, and you could immediately sense the new air of belief in the lads.
Page in particular was relishing his new role, causing havoc every time he turned and ran at the Clitheroe defence. Dom Moan, who had worked tremendously hard from the start up and down the left, finished a good attack with a cool finish, and the game looked as if it was on. Four minutes later, in what was by now a rare attack, Anoruo got his hat trick and made it 5-2 for Clitheroe. Surely that was that? Not likely. Another superb Luke Page run was ended by a crude tackle in the box on 58 minutes and Jonny Davis slotted the penalty, 5-3. Adam McGuinness came on for Clayton Davis at 75 minutes. By this time Michael Charlton was torturing his full back and as he turned him once again and crossed the ball was returned to him and he finished from close range, 5-4 on 79 minutes, with plenty of time to go.
Probably the decisive moment of the game followed in the 84th minute as Clitheroe sub Daniels launched a reckless tackle on Craig Hodgson. A full scale melee followed, at the end of which Daniels saw red and Thompson a second yellow and Clitheroe were down to nine men with probably ten minutes of playing time to go. For the first five of those minutes Clitheroe actually settled the better, killing time intelligently when they could and defending well. RCA when they got the ball were rushing things instead of passing their way through. As the game went into injury time the unbelievable happened and RCA were caught by a Clitheroe break and Rezizac finished coolly, and looked to have finished the match. But he hadn’t.
RCA swarmed forward, Charlton ran into the box every time the ball got to him, the keeper made one super save from Moan, but couldn’t stop the wave of attacks. On 92 minutes Dom Moan scored again, 6-5. Clitheroe kicked off, RCA won the ball back, Charlton ran past his full back yet again, crossed, and Nath O’Neill slid in at the back post to have the final say in an incredible game. 6-6. Unbelievable, Jeff, unbelievable.
Not the best game I’ve ever seen, but undoubtably the most memorable. Through the game RCA were sometimes careless, often sloppy, and never at their best; but, but, the spirit and determination was quite outstanding. A good Clitheroe team were left to rue some reckless challenges and indiscipline, but they will still think they can get something from the tie, and we will need to start as we finished to get through. Anyone who was at this game will not want to miss the replay, that is for certain.