A BIG month lies ahead for Padiham Football Club according to manager Steve Wilkes.
The Storks boss believes the next few weeks will ultimately define the club’s season with league fixtures scheduled against local rivals Colne and promotion-chasing Bootle at Vesty Road.
Meanwhile a date has also been set for Padiham’s Lancashire Co-Operative Challenge Trophy semi-final against Bacup Borough with the tie will taking place on Wednesday, January 23rd at the County Ground, Leyland, with kick-off at 7-45 p.m.
“We want as many Padiham fans at Leyland as possible,” said Wilkes. “We got the team we wanted to play in the semi-final and I’m sure Brent (Peters) feels the same. There’s some very strong teams in the other half of the draw. Bacup will certainly be focussing on their cup exploits so it’s a big game for both clubs.
“The final is at the Reebok Stadium and the club has never reached this stage before so we obviously want to go all the way now. We’ve got to beat Bacup first but the incentive to get to that final could not be higher. But the most important thing for us remains to get out of this league. That will be a massive week for Padiham and it will go a long way to defining our season.”
First up for Padiham though is a trip to Lambeth Grove tomorrow to face Stockport Sports, kick-off 3 p.m. The Storks, who haven’t played since the 3-0 Boxing Day victory over Barnoldswick Town, will be looking to extend their winning streak to seven games in all competitions.
“They play on a 4G surface so it should be on,” Wilkes said. “We’re all just looking forward to getting back playing again after the weekend postponement. We’ve been training in preparation for the match and had a few tough sessions so the lads should be ready.
“You never know how your players will react to that surface but we train on it twice a week and we’ve got some very good players who like to get the ball on the deck so it should suit us down to the ground. I played on an all-weather surface for Preston North End back in the 80s but it was different then. We should be able to adapt.
“Stockport haven’t had the best of seasons and I think they’re going through a transitional period after changing managers but we certainly won’t underestimate them. I will be forced in to a change though because we’ve got Elliot Dunn suspended for the game.”
On the back of Wilkes’s Manager of the Month accolade for December, the Arbories outfit had further reason to celebrate as Sean Davis (pictured) scooped the NWC Premier Division Goalkeeper of the Month award.
Sean, who has bounced back from a season plagued with injury last term, has played in all but four of Padiham’s 29 competitive fixtures this season, keeping 10 clean sheets, three of which were recorded in December when Padiham won all five of their fixtures played. A consistently good shot stopper and an intricate part of a Padiham defence that has only conceded 23 goals in their 21 league games played.
“Sean has been fantastic,” beamed Wilkes. “I text him to congratulate him and he text me back saying he barely had a shot to save because of the performances of the players in front of him. That typifies Padiham Football Club this year. It’s not about individuals, it’s about the team collectively.
“He made a fantastic double save against Barnoldswick and I still think he can play at a higher level. He trains hard and never misses a session but goalkeeping coach Dave Clark deserves some of the credit as well because he’s the one that puts Sean through his paces every week.”
Wilkes added: “You defend from the front so every single player contributes. We don’t have any ‘big-time Charlies’ in the dressing room, we have players who want to work hard for each other. We are all in this together and that’s what it’s been like all season. There’s a great spirit and a great squad.”
Wilkes has also added to his squad ahead of tomorrow’s clash with forward Kieran Pickup joining from Ramsbottom United. Wilkes said: “We won’t settle for what we’ve got because we’ve got to keep progressing. Improvement is important and Kieran scored vital goals for Ramsbottom when they won the league last year. Hopefully he can do the same for us.”