Clifton are given a French lesson

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To say Frenchman’s Cove weren’t happy with their end to last season is an understatement.

Paul Ronson’s side missed out on the division two title by losing the first championship play-off in the history of the Blackpool and Fylde Sunday Alliance.

Frenchman's Cove (blue) v Clifton Rangers

Frenchman's Cove (blue) v Clifton Rangers

They lost 2-1 to Clifton Rangers after both sides finished on 55 points, with a goal difference of +64.

But that only tells half the story.

Frenchmans were looking comfortable at the top of the table and with a lead in the goal difference chart when a no-show by Kirkham Cons for their match in April resulted in Frenchman’s being awarded a 1-0 win.

Clifton beat Kirkham 4-0 just seven days later and it was those goals which would eventually cost Frenchmans the title.

Credit must go to Clifton Rangers, who fired 18 goals in their final four games to catch their rivals, but it’s something which clearly left a sour taste in the mouth of Ronson.

“We weren’t happy about how it ended. We just felt it was unfair,” he said.

“We’d had such a good season it was harsh to see it end with a play-off and that 1-0 win award costing us.”

Despite the setback, Frenchmans bounced back during the summer and have made the step up to division two in fine fashion.

They are currently top, having won four of their opening six games, although Highfield Social are right on their tails and have played a game fewer.

Ronson strengthened his squad in the summer with the addition of free-scoring Graham Hutchinson and experienced midfielder Matty Clues, and he now boasts a regular 19-man squad.

And on Sunday came the chance to get at least something back on their arch-rivals Clifton, who themselves have enjoyed a very decent start to the season.

The pair met on a perfect Sunday morning at Boundary Park and the sides looked evenly matched at the start of the game.

Last season’s top scorer Karl McLeod scored a stunning opener for Frenchmans Cove on the half-volley before Clifton saw a goal ruled out courtesy of the linesman’s flag.

The home side did double their lead ten minutes later, when Hutchinson was fouled in the box.

Aaron Clarke made no mistake from 12 yards.

Darren Heaney’s header got Clifton back into the game before Chris Daws chipped the keeper to give Frenchmans a 3-1 half-time lead.

The second half was lively but only brought one more goal, which went Clifton’s way when the Frenchmans keeper collided with a defender, resulting in an own goal.

Nathan White could have put the game beyond any doubt only to fluff his lines and fall flat on his face in the dying moments.

It’s far too early in the season to say this was a six-pointer, but it’s clear both sides will be in the mix come the end of the season.

Division two will be one to watch.