Clipstone manager Ian Cotton challenged his new-look side to continue their improvement after they stretched their unbeaten run to three matches. Two first-half goals were enough to beat Retford United 2-1, despite a battling performance from the bottom-of-the table visitors.
The second successive win took Clipstone up to 15th place in the Northern Counties East League Premier Division with 45 points, after a run of seven points out nine. But Cotton admitted it was their worst performance since he took over earlier this year, along with assistant manager Michael Wain and coach Ian Birtley.
“We are glad to keep the run going, that’s three games undefeated, but it was our worst performance of the season,” he said. “Even in the games we lost we have played better than that. If I was Retford, I would have gone away thinking I should have got something out of the game. Retford were the better side.
“They showed more attitude than us, were fitter than us and wanted it a bit more than us, but obviously we ware happy with the three points.” Cotton said the management team’s aim when they took over was to improve the side in every game. “We also wanted to answer the question as a group of players who have stepped up from lower football, can we can compete at this level between now and the end of the season? he said.
“We have improved and after seven points out of nine you can’t fault the lads. “But it is no good being happy that we are safe and can’t go down. We need to show an improvement between now and the end of the season and show that we can compete at this level.
“If we keep the job and are at this level next season, we don’t just want to do it and stay above the bottom three. We want to be competitive and aiming for the top half of the table, not be in the bottom half.”
Clipstone, who struck a late winner the previous week for Cotton’s first victory, got off to the best possible start when Gareth Curtis netted in the first minute. Tim Gregory fired home to double the lead 12 minutes before half-time. But the bottom club were handed a lifeline in the 54th minute through a freak Luke Thomas own goal and the hosts were left hanging on at the final whistle.
“The lads who came off the bench helped massively — young Harry (Bircumshaw) and Keaton (Ward) helped us to see the game out. We were struggling until they came on. “Every game we have improved and today we took a little step backwards, but we have kept the run going which is the most important thing.”