Storks strengthen squad in bid for promotion push

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Padiham have announced the return of two former players as they bid for promotion to the Evo-Stik First Division North.

Striker Jay Hart and right back Ben Hoskin are both back at the Arbories, as the pair aim for a repeat of their North West Counties Premier Division title win with neighbours Colne last year.

Hart, 26, scored 35 goals for Colne, but struggled to settle at the higher level.

After spells at Ramsbottom United and Nelson, Hart chose to return to Padiham where he played for a short time back in 2015.

Hart said: “I know the manager Steve Wilkes well, and have a lot of admiration for him and his management team.

“When he came and spoke to me at the end of the season, it was a no-brainer for me.

“Padiham’s a great club, with big ambitions for this season, so it’s a really good move for me.

“I missed the last game of Colne’s promotion campaign, so I’m hoping I can do it all again this season with Padiham.”

Hart is joined by his pal, and team-mate Ben Hoskin, also 26, who contributed nine goals from his position at right back for Colne.

The tall and versatile player – a former Burnley youth – is equally capable at full-back, centre back or in midfield, with a talent in going forward.

“It’s great for me to be returning to Padiham,” said Hoskin, “as it was my first non-league club after getting released by Burnley.

“It’s a really friendly club, with a great setup off the pitch and a very supportive fan-base - they’ll never get on your back and will always give you 100%.

“When Wilkesy called me a couple of weeks ago I had no hesitation in joining Padiham.

“His reputation around the game is huge and I’m really looking forward to getting stuck in for him, and in hopefully helping Padiham to get promoted from the Northwest Counties League this season.”

In addition to the two players, Wilkes recently brought in Accrington Stanley Academy coach and Clarets legend Andy Payton, who will handle training and coaching for the coming season.

Wilkes said, “Although we finished seventh last season, I was really disappointed.

“In this league there’s only one team that gets promoted, and with a number of large, free-spending clubs in, it’s critical that we get a decent start.

“Jay Hart has shown himself a very capable striker, and with the experience that Andy Payton has in coaching strikers, I expect to see him getting a load of goals this season.

“For me, our finishing last season wasn’t the main problem. It’s no good scoring a load of goals if you’re leaking them at the other end, and that’s where Ben Hoskin will be crucial.

“He’s a fantastic defender, and I’ll be looking to him to help keep us watertight at the back.”

Padiham are currently in talks with a handful of other players, and expect to be making more key signings.