Padiham boss Steve Wilkes has challenged his players to rise to the biggest task of their careers as the Storks look to stave off relegation.
A 1-0 defeat against Ossett Town at Ingfield condemned Wilkes’s side to a 12th successive loss, while results elsewhere ensured the Storks are now 11 points adrift of safety with just 16 Evo-Stik First Division North fixtures remaining.
A stoppage time Deren Bozkurt strike earned maximum points for nearest rivals New Mills in a 2-1 triumph over Farsley AFC while Prescot Cables picked up a point in a 1-1 draw at home to Droylsden.
“At the moment games are running out and our rivals are picking up points,” Wilkes said.
“We’re not getting anything and we’re not able to get across the line in matches.
“It’s certainly the biggest challenge of my life and it should be the biggest challenge of the players’ careers.
“If we stay up now it’ll be a bigger achievement than when we won the league two seasons ago.”
“The players have got to step up to the plate and take on this challenge.
“When we won the title we got on a roll of 23 games unbeaten.
“Winning became habitual to us.
“Unfortunately the reverse is happening to us now.
“We need to get out of this habit of losing, we need to break the cycle.
“It’s not a good habit to have. We really need a boost from somewhere.”
Padiham’s task won’t ease up at any point in the coming weeks either as they host league leaders Darlington 1883 at the Arbories tomorrow before taking on second place Northwich Victoria on January 17th.
“The next two games are against Darlington and Northwich Victoria - the top two in the division,” said Wilkes, whose side have won just twice in 26 league outings this term.
“Any result there could be the morale boost that we’re needing.
“As it is we’re struggling; the league table doesn’t lie so we must be doing something wrong.
“I was looking at Burnley’s stats over Christmas the other day - they’re thriving on sheer graft and belief. We need to show the same qualities.
“It’s tough at the minute. The effort and commitment is there - I can’t question the players for that at all - but at times we’ve lacked quality.
“They got their first tongue lashing from me in a long time against Ossett Town.”
Wilkes added: “Anything that could go against us seems to be doing.
“There has been a lot of games where we haven’t been good enough but we’ve certainly been better than two wins suggests.
“There’s 16 games left now so we’ll have to see where that takes us.
“We’re five points adrift of second bottom and 11 points adrift of third bottom.
“That’s the challenge - we’ve got to pull four games back on them to survive and we’ve only won twice all season.”