The Padiham fans that made the long trip down to Hanley Town were rewarded with a convincing 3-0 win on Saturday.
Hanley’s only clear-cut chance of the first half saw a bobbling ball into the box evade Brandon Barski, giving striker Daniel Cope a one-on-one with Mike Donlon, who palmed the ball away.
Barski was almost immediately involved at the other end as he found James Dean, who cut inside, turned and whipped in a wicked, curving shot with his right foot, the ball whistling just over the bar.
Padiham’s deserved opener came from a 40-yard shot by midfielder Patrick O’Brien after the ball had broken from a Chris Turner corner. O’Brien’s daisy-cutter skidded through and left Hanley’s unsighted keeper no chance.
Just after the half hour, the Storks extended their lead from a corner. O’Brien’s looping far-post cross picked out Dean to head back across the keeper and into the goal.
The first real controversy came on 35 minutes as James Dean latched onto a forward pass, timing his run perfectly before knocking the ball around keeper Dane Jackson.
Jackson threw his arm around Dean’s throat, hauling him to the ground. Neither linesman nor referee, who were both very well placed, gave what looked to be a stone-wall penalty.
Kieron Pickup sprung the offside trap with a forward ball from Barski, sweeping the ball across to Dean on the left. His volley slid just wide of the far post, with Dom Craig unable to turn it in.
Dean again went close on the stroke of half-time as Pickup unselfishly played a square ball when through on goal. Dean’s easy task of side-footing home was scuppered by a cruel bobble of the ball as he hit it, the gentle, shinned shot allowing the Hanley centre-half to clear off the line.
Hanley’s Theo Stair saw his penalty saved early in the second half, after Barski was adjudged to have handled.
Padiham upped the pressure as Hanley attempted to break out and reduce the deficit, with Jackon in the Hanley net palming over a Keiron Pickup shot, and Marc Young heading the resulting corner against the right upright.
Another major talking point came on 65 minutes as Stair appeared to elbow Donlon in the jaw. Donlon and Stair entered the book, but it could so easily have been a red card for the Hanley striker.
On 72 minutes Pickup added Padiham’s well-deserved third. Dean looped a lovely cross to Pickup, whose sweet volley rocketing in off the left upright.
All in all this was a fantastic performance and bodes well ahead of two trips to AFC Darwen tomorrow night and then Nelson on Easter Monday.