PADIHAM hit a stumbling block in their chase for the North West Counties Premier Division title as promotion rivals Maine Road edged a seven-goal thriller at the Arbories on Saturday.
But in a fixture which served up three penalties, it was the appeals for spot kicks that were turned down by referee David McNamara that proved to be the decisive factor in the top of the table clash.
The Storks opened the first half well, but were stung in the 24th minute when a Matt Warburton free kick crashed against the crossbar, before Neil Chappell had time to bring the ball under control and smash the rebound past keeper Sean Davis to put the visitors one up.
Steve Wilkes’s side went close to drawing level in the 38th minute when a Martin Parkes shot was turned away for a corner by Gregory Hall, and from the resulting set piece Kieran Fletcher headed home what looked a perfectly good equaliser, until the match official stunned onlookers by disallowing the effort.
Things got worse for the Storks just before the interval when Fletcher’s injury was coupled with Storks skipper Martin Parkes conceding a spot kick which Warburton converted to give Maine Road a two-goal advantage at the break.
Padiham pulled a goal back within four minutes of the restart when a foul on Kieran Pickup resulted in a penalty for the hosts, which leading scorer Ben Allen converted.
And the home side felt aggrieved that they weren’t awarded another penalty moments later when Hall upended Allen as the striker attempted to round the goalkeeper when one-on-one.
However, McNamara waved away the appeals.
The Storks missed a great chance to equalise when Allen played in Andrew Tinker, but with just Hall to beat, he somehow scooped his effort over the bar.
Allen had yet another big shout for a penalty as Padiham pushed for a leveller, but this time the division’s leading marksman was booked, with the referee taking the opinion that he dived.
The home side fell further behind with 20 minutes remaining when a well-worked Maine Road corner routine saw Warburton lose his marker and turn the ball in at the near post to make it 3-1.
Padiham’s second penalty of the game arrived in the 74th minute when Sam Morris was brought down and Allen once again made no mistake from 12 yards out to put his side within touching distance of a recovery.
But the fightback was brief, as just two minutes later a 30-yard thunderbolt from full back Matt Russell put the visitors 4-2 up.
Padiham set up a grandstand finish when they reduced the arrears once more with eight minutes remaining after Mark Sharples fired in from the edge of the box.
The Storks pressed, sensing a point, and then arrived the cast-iron penalty shout which McNamara refused to award.
An angled centre across the face of goal saw Hall crash into Steve Cunningham as the Padiham substitute got to the ball first, but astonishingly nothing was given and Padiham lost out in front of their biggest attendance of the season.
The Storks are in league action again tomorrow night as they entertain in-form Runcorn Linnets at the Arbories, kick-off 7-45 p.m.
Elsewhere, goals from Harrison Price and Andy Hill helped Padiham Under 18s advance to the next round of the East Lancashire Alliance Youth League Cup with a 2-0 victory over Barrowford Celtic.
And Padiham FC Ladies registered a comprehensive win against Bury.
Elise Howarth hit a hat-trick in the 8-0 triumph while Hayton, Holden, Wallace, Birleson and Navan completed the scoring.