Storks boss Steve Wilkes has vowed to battle on in his attempts to retain Padiham Football Club’s Evo-Stik First Division North status.
The Arbories outfit, who finished 19th last term in the club’s first ever campaign in England’s eighth tier, are currently rooted to the foot of the table and need to claw back a 10-point deficit with 13 games remaining if they are to survive.
The 2012/13 North West Counties Premier Division champions face in-form Harrogate Railway Athletic on home soil tomorrow with kick-off at 3 p.m.
Billy Miller’s men have won 12 of their previous 15 outings in all competitions and look likely to claim a play-off spot at present.
Title favourites Darlington 1883 will then follow on Wednesday evening, armed with the division’s most potent marksman Nathan Cartman who recently made his move from Station View. The striker has scored 29 goals this season, 12 more than nearest rival Sam Madeley of Salford City.
“We’ve got two home games now,” Wilkes said. “Harrogate are playing well. They are flying and they’re the division’s form team despite selling their star man Nathan Cartman to Darlington.
“That’s another tough fixture and then we’ve got Darlington in a re-arranged game on Wednesday. We’ve just got to keep going and showing that same effort and commitment.
“We just need a bit more quality in some areas. We’ve got to try and put a few back-to-back wins together and apply the pressure on the teams above. We’ve got to keep fighting until it’s mathematically impossible.”
The Storks ended a 15 game winless streak recently against Radcliffe Borough but failed to pick up momentum as they lost to Bamber Bridge at the weekend.
Bobby Langford had cancelled out Paul McKenna’s early strike but Alistair Waddecar and Andrew Bell secured a 3-1 win for the hosts at the Sir Tom Finney Stadium.
It was the third time the Storks had faced Brig this term, and in a remarkable coincidence it was the third time that Wilkes saw his side end the game with nine men against his former club. A potentially season-ending injury for Paul Walsh, with Wilkes having used up his allocation of substitutes, and Chris Turner’s late dismissal contributed to the demise on this time.
“We’ve played Bamber Bridge three times this season and on every occasion we’ve ended the game with nine men,” Wilkes said. “That must surely be some kind of record.
“The sad thing about Saturday was that we were well in the game at 2-1. If anything it looked like we were going to get the next goal because they sat back.”
He added: “I was telling their winger to put the ball out when Paul was down injured, but he carried on, crossed from the byeline and they scored. I think that contributed to the sending off because Chris took his frustration out on the winger later on.
“At the end of the day it’s another defeat and another game gone. There’s only 13 left now so it’s getting harder by the week. We’ve picked up one or two more injuries now as well.”
Meanwhile Wilkes empathised with Sean Dyche after the Clarets endured a frustratingly non-productive transfer deadline day.
While Wilkes struggles in his attempts to add to his Arbories ranks less than five miles away Burnley Football Club was enduring a similar predicament.
The former Preston North End midfielder was by no means trying to compare their respective situations, but claimed that player recruitment is an unenviable tasks at all levels of the game.
“They’re a small club in a big pond,” Wilkes said. “A bit like us but on a completely different scale really. I’ve spoken to three players recently and they’ve gone elsewhere because they were offered more money. It doesn’t matter what level you’re at, it’s extremely tough. I’m trying to get people in now, but like Mr Dyche it’s harder than it sounds to recruit players.”