STORKS boss Steve Wilkes lauded the morale, spirit and togetherness of his squad after moving level on points with the Premier Division’s leading pack.
Padiham have lost just once in 14 league fixtures to date, with their latest triumph away at Winsford United providing them with an identical tally to Congleton, Runcorn Town and Bootle.
Ahead of tomorrow’s League Challenge Cup second round tie with Daisy Hill at the Arbories, kick-off 3 p.m., Wilkes said: “One of the biggest jobs I’ve got at the moment is keeping everyone’s feet firmly on the ground. It’s going really well but I don’t think the lads will get too much above their stations because we’ve got a great squad of about 18 players.
“One of the biggest problems is keeping everybody happy. We’re joint top at the moment and when you’re playing well you don’t make that many changes to your side. We’ve tried to mix it up to keep people involved as best we can and the players have been absolutely fantastic. I’ve got to take my hat off to them.”
Wilkes added: “I’ve told the lads that if we want to be challenging at the top end it’s not just the 11 players that are starting the game that will help us to achieve that. We’re all involved and we all need to be in it together. Everyone who has been left out has reacted in the right manner. The camaraderie in the dressing room is absolutely brilliant.
“When you’re winning games it breeds confidence. We started the season well and that momentum has been carried forward. There’s still a long way to go so we are not getting carried away but we’re still enjoying it. I have seen a change in attitude, they are all believing in themselves and they’ve got faith in each other. They’ve built a fantastic team spirit.
“I’ve been managing in non-league football since 1999 and this is the best I’ve seen. The lads are looking out for each other so it’s a great place to be. We built a local side over the summer and there’s only three or four outside the East Lancs bracket so I think that’s been a massive help. We just need to keep going now.”
The Storks are currently top of the NWC Premier Division form table having won four and drawn two of their previous six encounters. But Wilkes is still dissecting what could have been had his side not surrendered points at home to Winsford, Bacup Borough and AFC Blackpool.
“I’m slightly disappointed that we’re only joint fourth because we feel we should be top outright,” Wilkes declared. “We’ve deserved more from recent games, dropping points at home against Bootle, AFC Blackpool and Bacup Borough as well as Winsford United.
“I was saying to my assistant Steve Cunningham that we keep drawing with all the teams beginning with ‘B’ at home. I hope there’s not many more to come because we could be six points clear now. But a lot of teams in the league will feel that they’ve dropped points they shouldn’t have done.”
Wilkes won’t be taking tomorrow’s cup clash against First Division Daisy Hill for granted but admits he may still be inclined to make changes for their arrival. “We feel we can progress in the cup,” he said. “We’ll be going in to the fixture competitively, as if it was a league game because we feel we can go far. There will be changes made, perhaps one or two, so players will be given a chance to prove themselves. It’ll be a great opportunity for them to stake a place in the starting XI.”
And with Padiham Reserves also chasing top spot in their division, Wilkes added: “The club as a whole is doing really, really well at the moment. It’s a great club and a great place to be.”