AN eighth minute Simon Carden strike accompanied by a Rory Patterson brace, over-shadowed Clitheroe's endeavour at Gigg Lane on Wednesday night.
FC United were as impressive as ever on the counter attack with their sweeping, accurate play, but not three goals better than the Blues who had their own fair share of chances on goal.
Scott Redhead was in impressive form again with balls from the wing, and before the home side took the lead, Gary Jackson had a header tipped away by Aaron Grundy.
But again Clitheroe conceded another poor early goal when a ball over the top wasn't dealt with at more than one opportunity, flicked forward to the byline and then laid across the box for Carden to tuck away and leave the Blues in disarray.
The rest of the first half proved even enough between the two sides. Redhead had successive crosses into the box, one of which saw Joel Pilkington have a chance cleared off the line.
Then after United's Stuart Rudd crossed perfectly for Jerome Wright only for the forward to put wide from six yards out.
And James Mann warmed himself up for a starling second half display by keeping out Chris Baguley at his near post.
Carl Lomax struck a solid volley from the edge of the area that Grundy had to tip out for a corner.
Gary Jackson made way for Danny Toronczak at half-time, the forward suffering from a swollen knee, but it was United striker Patterson who found the net in the 60th minute with a well-driven free kick.
The Gigg Lane leading scorer lamped the ball home from just outside the area with a clear sight of goal, straight past an ineffective wall and a rooted Mann.
FC United continued to be rampant on the break and would have netted more if not for Mann pulling off some fantastic saves.
But the Blues sustained their own period of pressure in the home half and should really have done better when a move involving the fresh legs of substitute John Osborne, Redhead, David Hankin and Lomax resulted in the latter having a shot cleared off the line.
The Blues almost tried to walk the ball into the back of the net in the second half, while United swept forward with inch perfect balls that their pacey strikers thrived on. One, two three passes was all it took to unlock a path on goal as Jonathan Smith, Paul Osborne and Russ Clarke were kept busy.
A fantastic right wing cross from 14 traversed the width of the pitch to find its man, Chris Bauley at the back post, whose shot on goal was blocked out by Mann who then dived across goal to deny Patterson what should have been an easy rebound.
And the Clitheroe keeper almost denied Patterson again for his second goal when another raking move resulted in Wright laying the ball across goal for his strike partner at the back post. Mann got a hand to it but couldn't prevent United's 90th minute third goal.
Clitheroe: Mann, Clarke, Pilkington (Hankin), P. Osborne, Smith, Fisher (J. Osborne), Stopforth, Kozlowski, Lomax, Jackson (Toronczak), Redhead.
Last Updated: 28 February 2008 9:47 AM