Congleton 1, Padiham 1

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TEN-man Padiham earned a creditable Vodkat League Premier Division point at Congleton Town with a last-minute equaliser from the spot in a pulsating encounter at the Booth Street Ground.

It was the hosts who started brighter, and came close to opening the scoring in the 12th minute when Daniel Griggs let fly with a goal bound shot that Storks full back Tom Bradley did well to head away from under his own crossbar.

Padiham responded in the next attack when Jordan Hulme fired just over from 25 yards, before Ed O’Neill forced a good save from Congleton keeper Matthew Conkie in the 23rd minute with a curling effort from a direct free kick.

Three minutes later a five-man Padiham move culminated with Keiran Fletcher shooting over, Bradley and Hulme combined well which resulted in the latter crossing to the near post, only for Andy Haworth to flick just wide.

At the other end Robert Heath went close, but it was the visitors doing most of the pressing.

Bradley fired a free-kick just over the Congleton crossbar in the 35th minute, while Hulme had a curling shot saved by Conkie moments later.

Lee Morris’ speculative drive from 30 yards also came close to breaking the deadlock, but his effort whistled over the crossbar.

A Bradley free kick on 42 minutes looked to have been handled at the back post, but no penalty was awarded by the match official.

And in a relentless spell from the Storks, Martin Parkes set up Morris, but Conkie was equal to the effort once again.

But the best was yet to come from Conkie, and he produced it just before the interval when O’Neill cut infield from the left hand side before forcing the Congleton stopper into making a superb reflex save to tip the effort over the bar.

And the keeper was called in to action straight from the resulting set piece when Stuart Telfer’s corner found Haworth, who shot goalwards, only to see Conkie save with his legs to keep the scoreline goalless at half-time.

The break came at the right time for the hosts, and they started the second half with more menace, to the degree that the Storks had a lucky escape when a Griggs effort smashed against Padiham’s upright and away to safety in the 52nd minute.

But Conkie came to Congleton’s rescue again shortly after when Telfer broke down the right, and from his cross the ball found its way to O’Neill, whose shot on goal was tipped away for a corner.

Congleton concentrated their attacking play down their left hand side, with Griggs looking dangerous both in open play and from set pieces.

In the 57th minute Griggs curled an inswinging corner just wide of Padiham’s back post, then a minute later the same player floated in a free kick that resulted in the home side taking the lead.

The set piece found centre half David Harper whose downwards header was initially saved by Storks keeper Sean Davis, but the ball spun into Padiham’s net via the foot of the back post to give the hosts an undeserved advantage.

Padiham made a treble substitution on 66 minutes bringing on Paul Fildes, Lloyd Balazs and Lee Kershaw, going with three forwards in an attempt to get back in the game.

And the change worked as the away side were encamped in the Congleton half as they bombarded the home side’s penalty area.

In the 75th minute it looked like Padiham’s pressure would pay off when a Parkes mis-cue found Fildes unmarked, but Padiham’s leading scorer scuffed his shot wide.

Conkie continued to thwart Padiham’s efforts on goal and that push for a leveller became much more difficult when the Storks were reduced to 10 men when defender John Buckley was dismissed for a second bookable offence with little over five minutes remaining.

But the away side continued to press regardless and got their reward a minute from time when a clumsy challenge by Darren Twigg on Morris resulted in a penalty, which Padiham’s hot shot Fildes (pictured above), on his return from suspension, stepped up to convert to earn Padiham a point in a game when they could so easily have taken all three.

Padiham FC’s reserve team and A team had their respective games postponed.

Meanwhile the Storks will entertain Formby FC on Saturday with kick-off at 3 p.m.

Padiham Reserves travel to AFC Darwen in the Vodkat North West Counties Reserve Division.