PROUD Padiham boss Steve Wilkes believes the spirit of his squad has been the ultimate secret to the Storks’ success.
Having used the least amount of players in the North West Counties Premier Division, the club has cultivated a familiarity and togetherness at the Arbories.
The Storks embarked on a run of one defeat in 21 league fixtures - a statistic that saw them soar to the top of the table for the first time in their history - and recovered from the turmoil of missing out on a Lancashire Challenge Trophy final appearance at the Reebok Stadium. And Padiham showed similar steel to bounce back from successive defeats at the hands of promotion rivals Maine Road and Runcorn Linnets.
December’s Manager of the Month recipient said: “I was glad to get back on the winning track at Glossop North End on Saturday: “We were short on bodies for our last couple of fixtures but that’s no excuse. We could’ve been three or four up against Runcorn Linnets but we didn’t take our chances. In the end experience told and they had that extra bit of quality to grind us down towards the end.
“But we bounced back, which is the main thing. Again we should’ve been a lot more comfortable at half-time against Glossop but we’ve squandered a number of fantastic openings. Once we lost Sam Morris to a head injury we had to reshuffle because we didn’t have another left back on the bench. They drew level with 10 minutes remaining but we brought on Nathan Egan for his first game of the season, changed to 4-4-2, and won the game with two minutes left.”
Wilkes added: “We went on a remarkable run. It was a fantastic achievement and I can’t give the players enough credit. We’ve used the least amount of players in the league this term with 25. That has given us some continuity but we are relying on the same people week in, week out. We’ve got a lot of youngsters as well.
“The lads have all been magnificent. There’s been those that we’ve relied on every week and those who have had to sit patiently on the bench. Some of the lads don’t get a chance every week but they haven’t sulked, they’ve just got on with it. They’re part of the reason why we’re up there. There’s a great spirit.
“Every team has a dip in form during the season. We hadn’t played to our potential in the two or three games leading up to Maine Road. I just hope we’ve had our dip in results now. There’s 10 games remaining so there’s still a long way to go. We’ve got seven away from home and four of those are against sides around us in the table.”
Wilkes has added two new faces to his squad ahead of tomorrow’s trip to face Congleton Town. Midfielder Andrew Gamble has joined from Salford City while Glossop North End forward Nathan Bond has joined Padiham’s push for promotion.
“We’ve got until March 31st to bring new players in,” said Wilkes. “We’re still looking to add to the squad because we don’t want to be getting caught short.
“There’ll be more to follow before the deadline.”
Meanwhile, midweek results fell in Padiham’s favour this week with rivals Maine Road losing at home to Silsden, challengers Bootle hit by defeat at AFC Blackpool while Winsford United and Runcorn Linnets shared the spoils in a goalless draw.