End-of-season form pleases Storks boss

Action from the Lancashire FA Challenge Trophy semi-final between Lancaster City (blue and white) v Padiham, at the County Ground in Leyland.
Kieron Pickup busy in midfield for Padiham.  PIC BY ROB LOCK
23-2-2016
Action from the Lancashire FA Challenge Trophy semi-final between Lancaster City (blue and white) v Padiham, at the County Ground in Leyland. Kieron Pickup busy in midfield for Padiham. PIC BY ROB LOCK 23-2-2016

Arbories boss Steve Wilkes is delighted with the way that Padiham have seen out the season in the North West Counties Premier Division.

The Storks, who are second to rivals Colne in the form table for the last six games, have now lost just once in 13 outings in the league following a 4-2 win over Ashton Athletic midweek.

The visitors were a goal down at the break when Daniel Smith, a familiar face to Wilkes from his tenure at Brocstedes Park, brought down a diagonal pass, rounded goalkeeper Michael Donlon and slotted in to an empty net.

But Padiham, who were let off by an inexplicable miss from Isaac Kusaloka later in the opening half, responded after the break and equalised within five minutes of the restart.

Dave Hankin and Jake Townsend combined in the build up before Garry Hunter clipped a cross towards the far post and Kieron Pickup smashed the ball home.

Just before the hour mark Kusaloka made amends for his earlier miss when exploiting a hole in Padiham’s defence to steer the ball past Donlon from Joel Brownhill’s centre.

Again the away side fought back and restored parity in the 69th minute with a marvellous strike from Alex Murphy.

After Martin Pearson had foiled Hunter with a superb save, Murphy arrowed a half-volley across the goalkeeper and in to the top corner once the resulting set-piece had been cleared.

Murphy then gave the away side the lead in the 87th minute with an equally impressive strike.

The man of the match feinted to shoot with his right foot, manouvred the ball on to his left boot and picked out the corner of the net from the edge of the box.

The Storks, reduced to 10 men due to injury to Sean Cookson after using all three substitutes, then made it 4-2 in stoppage time as Murphy and Pickup traded passes before the latter rounded Pearson and slotted home.

“That was the first time that we’ve won three games in succession all season,” beamed Wilkes. “We were very poor in the first half and it was the first time in a while that I had to raise my voice.

“With only a few games left I don’t want them to have an end-of-season feel to them. I don’t want to sit there and watch another half like that.

“Some of the players just looked like they didn’t want to be there. They just didn’t look interested. But they went out in the second half and played really well and showed what they’re capable of.”

Wilkes, whose side is top of the fair play league, added: “It was good to see us stay focussed for 90 minutes. We stayed switched on until the end and scored two goals in three minutes. You can see the confidence coming back.

“We’ve lost once in 13 games now so it’s nice to be top of the form table. It’s taken us a while to get here but I’m pleased with the consistency now. It all helps to build towards next season.”

Padiham host Abbey Hey at the YESSS Electrical Arena tomorrow, kick off 3 p.m.