THE smile is back on Barnoldswick Town boss Stewart Airdrie’s face after a flying start to the campaign.

Barlick came within a whisker of being relegated to the North West Counties League First Division last season.


But having survived by the skin of their teeth they regrouped in the summer determined to improve on their fourth-from-bottom finish in 2014-15.

And improve they most have with Saturday’s 3-0 success at home to Squires Gate stretching their lead at the top of the Premier Division to five points.

With the in-form Mark Threlfall pulling the strings, Barlick overcame the absence of top-scorer Joe Gaughan to run out comfortable winners with two goals from Jack Tinning and one from Christopher Ridehalgh.

And Airdrie said: “It was pleasing to get another win and another clean sheet.

“We’re looking really solid this season whereas last season there were times when we conceding four or five. But we seem to have sorted that problem out.

“If I am being honest it wasn’t the best performance and to be fair to Squires Gate they probably felt aggrieved at the final scoreline.

“But we’ve got a real threat up front now and we’re creating and scoring a lot of goals.

“Mark Threlfall didn’t have the best of seasons last year but he had a bit of a rocket in the summer and he’s playing brilliantly. He’s like a totally new signing.

“And he’s got the support of Joe Gaughan now too. His signing has been a massive boost but the problem is teams will be looking at him now.

“But we’re used to that at Barlick and the good thing at the moment is that everyone is playing their part.

“We’ve got 27 lads signed on and because of injuries, suspensions, work and holidays, they are getting a go because we’ve not been able to name a settled side.

“And they’ve all come in and done a job. We’re not carrying anyone.”

Gaughan, Liam Britton and John Beckwith will return for Barlick for Saturday’s home clash with Winsford United.

And Airdrie said: “We’re under no illusions, we’re not the finished article yet, and now that we’re top, we’re there to be shot at.

“But we’ve all got smiles on our faces and we’re all enjoying our Saturday nights again.”

Meanwhile, fourth placed Nelson, who have 10 points from their five games, could move within two points of Barlick with victory at Squires Gate tonight (7.45pm).

Colne, currently second with two games in hand on Barlick, have seen their clash with Atherton Collieries called off as Atherton are involved in an FA Cup replay.