PADIHAM kept themselves firmly in the NWC Premier Division promotion race with a 2-0 away win over Squires Gate on Saturday.
But the Storks had to be patient as a stubborn defensive performance from the hosts in the first half threatened to frustrate with the scoreline goalless at the interval.
Mark Sharples tested home keeper Neil Beesley with an 11th minute shot that required a good save to prevent the breakthrough, while Ben Allen headed against the crossbar just before the half hour.
Steve Wilkes’s side continued to press before the break but further efforts from Neil Stansfield, Joe Garvin and Allen failed to trouble Beesley.
The start of the second half mirrored that of the first with Elliot Dunn missing a great chance to put the Storks ahead in the 49th minute when he fired wide after good work from Allen.
Stansfield was threaded through on goal a minute later but his poor control thwarted the opening.
Then, in the 53rd minute, Garvin’s deflected free-kick floated straight in to the arms of a grateful Beesley.
Padiham’s cutting edge improved dramatically with the introduction of Kenny Taylor as a 57th minute substitute.
His pace, width and ability to beat defenders produced immediate results and in the 67th minute his low, hard cross from the right found Garvin lurking in the six-yard box, and his effort past Beesley finally gave the Storks the lead.
Taylor nearly added to the away side’s lead with two minutes of normal time remaining but he was unfortunate to see his close range shot saved by Beesley’s outstretched leg.
However, Taylor went one better in stoppage time when he latched on to Kieran Pickup’s through ball before drilling a shot beyond Beesley.
The Storks face local rivals Colne tonight, kick-off 7-45 p.m., in a top-of-the-table clash at the XLCR Stadium.
Meanwhile, on Saturday, Padiham entertain AFC Blackpool at the Arbories in the third round of the North West Counties Challenge Cup, kick-off 3 p.m.
Elsewhere, Padiham FC Reserves reached the semi-final of the divisional cup competition with a 5-0 win over Nelson Reserves.
Nicholas McNally gave the Storks the perfect start when he turned in Joel Melia’s cross in the fourth minute, while Nathan Egan doubled the lead 10 minutes later, finishing clinically after a great solo run from just inside the visitor’s half.
The tie was over as a contest within three minutes of the restart when Richard Geoghegan scored direct from a free-kick before further goals from Melia (pictured) and Egan completed the scoring.
Nelson’s misery was deepened when Storks stopper Josh Boothman saved a penalty.