Storks boss Steve Wilkes has labelled the month of March as ‘pivotal’ in terms of deciding the club’s future.
The third month of the calendar year was named for Mars, the Roman god of war, and that’s exactly what Wilkes will be declaring against forthcoming opposition.
Padiham have seven fixtures within that 31-day period, which includes five teams in the division’s bottom eight. The Storks entertain 19th place Prescot Cables, second from bottom Radcliffe Borough and 15th place Burscough at the Arbories, and travel to relegation-threatened Wakefield, who lie precariously in 20th, as well as 17th place New Mills.
“I was called over to a meeting at the club on Sunday and I had a really good chat with Alan Smith,” said Wilkes. “He was brilliant and understood the situation that we’re in. It’s not really a true reflection because of the amount of injuries and misfortune we’ve had, and Alan has given me his full backing. We covered everything in our chat.
“As a club we’ll feel like we’ve won the league again if we stay up. It will be just as good an achievement. Survival will mean we’ve had a full season of experience at this level; that includes myself, the players, and everybody involved at the club. If we survive then I know what kind of player I want to bring to Padiham next season. I’m confident we can do it.”
Wilkes added: “The lack of confidence running through the football club isn’t good. Now it’s up to me and Danny Craig to build that confidence back up. We’ve played all the top teams twice now so these next few games will go some way to determining whether we’ll be staying up or not.
“March is going to be pivotal for us. We’re playing all the teams around us. Everybody, apart from Kendal, are in the bottom eight. Hopefully by the end of the month we’ll be talking about a Manager of the Month award.”
The 4-1 defeat against Ramsbottom United on home soil was Padiham’s sixth successive reverse. Daniel Boyle’s 71st minute strike proved a mere consolation as a quickfire Jordan Hulme double on top of goals from Lee Gaskell and Philip Dean sealed maximum points for the visitors.
“When you get beat six games on the trot it starts to ruin your weekends,” Wilkes said. “We’re in a relegation battle now, make no bones about it. We’re fifth from bottom, Wakefield won at the weekend and Ossett Albion picked up a point. March is going to be a massive month for us, starting with a tough fixture against Darlington.
“Sometimes you just have to hold your hands up and admit you were beaten by the better team. Ramsbottom were the best outfit we’ve come up against all season. We had chances to get back in to the game, but they were a very strong side.”
Wilkes handed 18-year-old Luke Greaves his debut against the Rams after Accrington Stanley boss James Beattie allowed the teenager out on loan. And Wilkes was pleased with what he saw: “He did very well. He got a bust nose after half-an-hour and limped off at full-time with a sore thigh but he performed well. We were definitely happy with his debut and we’ll be sending a report back to Accrington Stanley to tell them that. He seemed to enjoy it.”
Wilkes is now rallying his troops ahead of March’s first battle as promotion chasing Darlington 1883 are the visitors to the Arbories tomorrow, kick-off 3 p.m.
“It’s a great game for the club and Darlington will be the biggest team to come to the Arbories,” he said. “It would be brilliant to get something from a game where everybody on the outside is expecting us to get beat.
“We’ll be going all out for the win because we have to start getting something from somewhere. We are looking forward to the occasion and we’ve been told that they’re going to bring about 500 fans down.”