By Chris Gibbs
It’s when the chips are down that you learn the most about the character of a team. And my word, did the boys respond to the increasingly difficult situation they had found ourselves in with a performance full of determination and spirit.
I’ll admit, I punched the air at full time! Make no mistake, although the scoreline suggested a cagey affair, the truth of the matter was that our opponents, fourth placed Clitheroe were lucky to get away with a 1-0 defeat.
This was an outstanding performance – to a man we were excellent throughout the team.
Max Chimenes – starting for the first time in his second spell at the club – was a handful throughout. Although he didn’t score Max did brilliantly to create opportunities for himself in the first half especially.
The defence was resolute when it needed to be with our captain marvel James Askey not only rallying the troops with a strong performance but also coming up with the crucial winner in the early stages of the second half, glancing home a header from a pinpoint Jack van der Laan free kick.
It's fair to say that we ought to have been out of sight before James’ crucial intervention but that should no way cloud a thoroughly professional display full of brilliant individual performances all over the pitch.
On any other day – and it was still a close call even on this one – Joe Thompson’s authoritative display would have earned him the man of the match but today wasn’t about individuals.
Today was about the team. And every one of those players that wore the shirt today put in a proper shift.
We could have been three up in the first 11 minutes. After two minutes, Jack Derbyshire flicked on a Connor Russo cross but Ryan Baxter couldn’t quite sort his feet out to get a powerful shot away in time. Then from a superb Jack van der Laan cross, Max Chimenes headed just wide.
Max had a further chance after a powerful run into the box from Mikey Conlon but his finish was just off target. Luke Walsh got into the act just shy of the half hour mark. A brilliant jinking run – well supported by a lung-busting overlapping run from Connor – ended in a shot which Luke scuffed wide.
Around this point, we may have started to wonder whether we would pay for not making our dominance count especially when Sefton Gonzalez – who scored a hat-trick against us in October – broke into the penalty area just before half time.
With impeccable timing, Luke Dennis got back to make a crucial block though and Clitheroe’s only real moment of threat was quickly dealt with.
Joe Slinn was untroubled to such an extent in that first half that he could almost have watched the game from the stands, which he very nearly did having been an injury doubt coming into the game. It was the extent of the players that we didn’t have available that made this performance even more impressive.
With Ollie Ritchie, Will Lloyd and Nathan Morley all missing through injury, though Nat did come on at the end to help us close out the game, this was a classic case of rolling up the sleeves, wearing the shirt with pride and delivering the goods.
Yes. the hearts were in mouths in injury time as Clitheroe’s Reece Webb-Foster headed over the bar from close range but in truth that would have been a terrible injustice.
We deservedly held on and have now created a six-point cushion between ourselves and the relegation play-off places.
And if you want another example of team spirit then you need look no further than Tommy Van der Laan, who of course is still missing through injury. Kicking every ball from the stands and admitting to not being a great spectator, he was buzzing just as much from the win as if he’d been out on the field himself.
Let’s enjoy this victory. It was great to see so many smiles on faces and I daresay there may be a few sore heads come tomorrow!
This performance could not have come at a better time because next week’s challenge is the biggest there is in our league.
Watch out Macclesfield we’ll be ready for you!
Man of the match – James Askey