Padiham FC stay in title hunt after draw

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IN a game Padiham desperately didn’t want to lose, and really needed to win, the Storks’ Premier Division clash with promotion rivals Runcorn Linnets inevitably ended in a goalless draw.

Spring sunshine greeted the players at the Millbank Linnets Stadium, though the dried out playing surface made the ball difficult to control.

But there were incidents at both ends, starting with Joe Garvin’s free-kick that seemed destined for goal before being blocked. Then from a counter attack, Chris Lomax forced Storks stopper Sean Davis into a superb save.

Steve Wilkes’s side had the ball in the net in the ninth minute, but celebrations were brought to a halt by the lineman’s flag as leading scorer Ben Allen was adjudged to have been off-side when applying the vital touch to Kieran Pickup’s shot.

At the other end Padiham had a scare when Kieran Fletcher’s headed clearance on his own goal line prevented the home side taking the lead. Allen then went agonisingly close to his 35th goal of the campaign when thumping the upright with a curling effort in the 16th minute after Garvin had picked the striker.

Davis made a good save in the 22nd minute to keep out a Kyle Hamid shot, and five minutes later Ross McDowell saw his effort deflected wide of the target.

The Storks, now third in the table, took control of the game after the break but couldn’t get the goal they needed. Mark Sharples delivered an excellent cross in the 48th minute only for Neil Stansfield to blaze his shot over. Stansfield’s centre flashed across the face of goal as Padiham continued to press, before Sharples thumped an effort into the side-netting just before the hour.

Linnets keeper Richard Mottram then came to Runcorn’s rescue with a brilliant save in the 62nd minute to keep out Elliot Dunn’s 20-yard screamer and denied Stansfield moments later.

The home side’s first sight of goal in the second half didn’t arrive until the 75th minute when Hamid was threaded through on goal but his shot flashed past the post. Martin Parkes made a superb last-ditch challenge to thwart McDowell with five minutes of normal time remaining, but he then picked up his second yellow card of the match, leaving the Storks to see out the last few minutes with 10 men. From the resulting free-kick, awarded for handball, Martin Crowders sent his effort over the bar.

In the final action of the clash, Ted Cockett smashed his shot over the bar as Padiham contributed another point to their promotion charge.

Padiham now travel to Bacup Borough on Thursday, kick-off 8 p.m.

Meanwhile, Padiham Reserves reached the final of the divisional cup competition for the second year running as they beat New Mills 2-0 at the Arbories.

Ryan Brereton converted a Nathan Egan cross in the 33rd minute while the Storks doubled their advantage midway through the second half when Brad Cookson scored to seal the semi-final tie.