Padiham secured Evo-Stik First Division North survival despite losing 3-0 away to promotion chasing Darlington 1883.
With Wakefield withdrawing from the division at the end of March due to not fulfilling the sufficient ground-grading criteria, and basement side Ossett Albion losing 2-1 to Radcliffe Borough, the Storks assured their safety mathematically with three games remaining.
And that scenario put Arbories boss Steve Wilkes in jovial mood, tweeting after the game: “As a manager some Sat nights are tough after losing, but 2nite I want to say how proud I am of my players. We went to Darlington with 12 players and had to use my 1 sub after 15 mins. I haven’t been prouder all season than how I felt 2day. Thanks lads you’ve made me smile again. And a massive thanks to our spectators who applauded my players off the pitch at the end. 3-0 flattered Darlington.”
A makeshift Storks side were put under pressure from their hosts, backed by just over 1,000 fans who turned up to watch their side keep their promotion dreams alive.
Playing with the advantage of a strong wind, Darlington’s Ian Ward proved a constant threat but it was Stephen Thompson that finally beat Storks stopper Sean Davis when he cut in from the left and threaded an angled shot in to the net in the 27th minute.
After the break it took the home side just seven minutes to double their lead when Amar Purewall headed a back post corner through a crowd of players and past Davis.
Padiham grew into the game as the second half progressed and should have halved the deficit in the 76th minute when Paul Fildes’ cross to the back post found Spencer Jordan unmarked but his header flashed past the upright.
Darlington added a third deep into added on time when Purewall broke from midfield after dispossessing Jordan, profited from Tom Murphy’s slip, before easing into the area and firing past Davis who was beaten by an awkward bounce.
Padiham Reserves also lost 3-0 as they ended their league campaign at home to New Mills Reserves.
The Under 14s drew 1-1 with Langho with Layne O’Reilly on target.