Padiham boss Steve Wilkes believes his current side is “as good, if not better” than the one that lifted the North West Counties Premier Division title in 2013.
The Storks have won 10 of their last 11 league games, drawing the other, to climb to sixth in the table, after a sticky start.
Wilkes men lie 13 points behind leaders Runcorn Town, with a game in hand, and have to face Town twice over the second half of the season.
And he is looking to match the achievements of his champions four years ago: “We’ve taken 31 points from 33, and when we won the league, I think we went 22 unbeaten, winning 18, so it can be done.
“This squad is as good, if not better, than that one, and we’ve just got to keep it going.”
Padiham had hit 23 goals in five games going into Saturday’s 2-1 win over Congleton Town at the Arbories, but that narrow victory pleased him more than the more convincing wins of late: “For me, that was our best result in this run – we really ground it out.
“We should have had five or six, but first half we didn’t play as well as we have been, and conceded a sloppy goal when we switched off from a throw in.
“Whether you’re in the Premier League or North West Counties, seconds balls are important, and we didn’t react.
“But second half, up the hill, we played really well, got the two goals and I ended up really pleased with the performance and the result.”
The problem with having a quality squad with strength in depth is keeping everyone happy when a consistent first team selection is doing the business week in, week out: “It’s Catch 22. I go in the dressing room every week at the moment and tell them the team is the same again, and that’s when your man-management skills come in.
“It’s a long season, and we have 20-plus games to go, and I’m sure I bore them to death, but it’s not all about the 11 who start, the subs have to be ready, you can’t have them sulking, so you always have to look after those who aren’t starting, probably more so than those who are.
“A case in point is Martin Parkes – he’s been the captain, made over 300 appearamces, but can’t get in at the moment because the two centre backs are doing so well.
“But the lads have to be patient, they will be needed overt the second half of the season.”
Padiham start their festive schedule at Wilkes’ old stompong ground Darwen on Boxing Day, kick-off 3 p.m., before a Friday night encounter at home to fellow high-fliers Atherton Collieries on the 30th, kick-off 7-45 p.m.
The Storks then entertain Irlam on Saturday, January 7th, kick-off 3 p.m., with Wilkes facing a stadium ban for all three games following his sending off in the 5-3 cup defeat at West Didsbury and Chorlton.