Padiham ready for big derby

Steve Wilkes.
Steve Wilkes.

STORKS boss Steve Wilkes is hopeful that his side’s destiny will soon be in their own hands.

Despite a 1-1 stalemate with Stockport Sports at Lambeth Grove, Padiham remain well in the hunt for promotion, with just five points separating them from leaders Maine Road, with three games in hand.

In fact only Bootle, who lost at Wigan Robin Park at the weekend, can currently overtake the Storks as the title chase hots up.

After extending their rich vein of form, which has seen the Arbories outfit lose just once in 17 outings in all competitions, Wilkes said: “Bootle lost so we’ve gained a point back on them.

“The result keeps that unbeaten run going, which breeds confidence, and that might be the point that sees us over the line at the end of the season.

“It’s going to be very close and every point is vital.

“We just want to keep this run of form going.

“We need to claw more points back on Bootle because they are the only team that can jump above us in the table with games in hand at the moment.

“Our destiny could soon be in our own hands.”

First half profligacy and an agonising last minute miss proved costly for Padiham on Stockport’s Optima 3G surface as Craig Flowers blossomed late on to cancel out Ben Allen’s opener. “The surface was a bit different to what we train on but it was fine,” insisted Wilkes.

“If every non-league club could afford them then it would obviously be beneficial, particularly at this time of the year, because you’d get games on all the time. It would be great.

“People may think that it was two points dropped, but I don’t think we have to be honest.

“They’d signed four or five new players and we knew it was going to be difficult.

“We created enough chances to be 3-0 up at the break and after half-time Mark Sharples hit the post.”

Wilkes added: “We ended up defending for about 40 minutes, they threw four lads up front, and we had to change our style to try and counteract that.

“We just couldn’t get out of our half though Sean Davis didn’t have a shot to save.

“Our defending was excellent again but then they got a free-kick, it’s gone through everyone, Tom Bradley has just taken his eye off the ball as he went to clear and they’ve poked it home.

“We went to try and win the game after, and, with literally the last touch of the game, Dave Sherlock has headed a cross over the bar from inside the six-yard box.

“We could’ve won it but I think a draw was a fair result in the end.

“I definitely see it as one point gained.”

The forthcoming week could prove pivotal to Padiham’s progress this term with a Lancashire Co-Operative Challenge Trophy semi-final against Bacup Borough on Wednesday, followed by a trip to Vesty Road to take on Bootle. But first up is a local derby at the Arbories, weather permitting, against in-form Colne, kick-off 3 p.m.

“I’m not sure whether the game will be on with the forecast, but we are looking forward to the game,” declared Wilkes.

“They are on a fantastic run themselves, only losing one league game since September, so they’re going strong.

“It will be a fantastic game of football and I’m sure Nigel Coates and his players will be looking forward to it as well.

“It’s a massive derby game between two in-form teams that know each other very well.”

And Wilkes has singled Premier Division leading scorer Jason Hart, with 25 goals to his name, as their main threat: “I saw him about three years ago when I was managing Runcorn and he was playing as a winger back then.

“He was rapid and looked a real player. We know he’ll be a threat on Saturday because he’s scoring goals for fun.

“Fingers crossed we can keep him quiet because we’ve been defending well.”

Meanwhile Wilkes is hopeful of strengthening his squad ahead of this testing schedule of fixtures. He said: “We’ve put seven days on two players this week.

“One is a forward and the other is a defender. We are just trying to improve things as we go along.

“You can never have too many good players in your squad. We are at the business end so now’s the time to act. We are trying to bring in quality players to add to what we’ve already got.”