CLITHEROE boss Simon Garner admitted he had to thank his team-mates after the Blues booked their place in the Lancashire Challenge Trophy final in midweek.

Player-manager Garner was sent off midway through the first half of Clitheroe’s semi-final win over Atherton Collieries.


But despite going down to 10-men, the Blues scored twice in the final quarter to seal a 2-0 win and set up a meeting with Chorley in the showpiece at Bolton Wanderers’ Macron Stadium on Monday, March 16.

Garner doesn’t yet know if he will be suspended for that clash but he was full of praise for his players following the win, which he was forced to watch behind a floodlight with his dismissal meaning he was unable to sit in the dug-out.

And the midfielder now wants his side to hit form in the Evo-Stik League Division One North ahead of the final date, starting with tomorrow’s trip to Kendal Town.

“We want to go into the final on the back of some good league results,” said Garner.

“The players were magnificent on Tuesday night and I can’t give them enough credit. Hopefully they will now all be playing for their places and we can hit some form before we play Chorley.

“We played Kendal a couple of weeks ago at home and won 6-4 but they have beaten the leaders since then and we know it will be a tough game.”

The sides head into the clash side by side in the table ion 13th and 14th place with Garner’s men a point better off.

With the gap to the play-offs now standing at 13 points with 12 games to go, Garner admits hopes of a top five finish have gone.

But the Clitheroe chief wants to finish with a flourish and is targeting a top-10 place and county silverware come the season’s end.

“That would be a great return for us,” said Garner.

“We want to finish as high up the table as possible.”

Garner admitted he had to apologise to the players following his red card in midweek but said the whole club was now looking forward to the final.

He added: “I got sent off in the first half and when I was walking off I was thinking about what to say to everyone if we lost.

“But the players were brilliant. Everyone is still on a high at the club and we can’t wait for the final now when we will get he opportunity to play at Bolton Wanderers on a good pitch and possibly lift a trophy.

“We will be the underdogs but hopefully we can provide a shock.”

On his midweek dismissal Garner added: “It was for two yellow cards in the space of two minutes. The first one was for dissent but I didn’t swear at the referee, I couldn’t believe that one.

“Then I went in for a tackle and the lad just nicked it past me so I got a second yellow.

“All their players surrounded the ref and I should not have made the tackle. I should have been more experienced but the lads were fantastic when we went down to 10 men and I am so pleased for them.”