The mist over Pendle descended over the Arbories Memorial Sports Ground on Saturday, and although visibility at times was difficult, it didn’t stop the Storks from taking all three points at the Arbories.
The first half produced chances at both ends in a free-flowing encounter that saw Irlam in the ascendency early on, with Matthew Bowland having the first real shot in anger on eight minutes, which was then followed soon after by a deflected shot that Michael Donlon, returning to the Storks’ line up after suspension, did well to turn round his post, and then a shot by Gareth Mooney that hit the upright, before one of his colleagues ballooned over the loose ball from close range.
Padiham responded with a Garry Hunter free kick on 25 minutes that curled just wide, and then the miss of the season as James Dean blasted high and over the bar from inside the Irlam six-yard box, after a pin point pull back from Dominic Craig found the Storks’ leading goal scorer unmarked on 34 minutes.
Alex Murphy missed another good opportunity to put the Storks ahead four minutes later when he too shot over, this time after being picked out by a Chris Turner corner, while at the other end Mooney shot straight at Donlon with an angled shot on the break.
The breakthrough arrived on 41 minutes however, following a right wing cross from Dean, which Aaron Taylor bravely headed in before colliding with the back post as the ball nestled in the visitors’ net.
This wasn’t the last action of the first half though, as captain Martin Parkes, making his 400th appearance for the Storks, made a great block tackle to keep out a shot from Christian Lawlor, and in added on time, Donlon tipped over a free kick from Matthew Boland from the edge of the box to keep Padiham’s 1-0 lead intact at the break.
Padiham doubled their lead five minutes into the second half, when a break down the left by Pickup and cross was helped into the path of Craig by Dean, leaving the midfield player to score with a shot in off the post.
The Storks went close to adding a third on 68 minutes after a Dean effort needed Irlam keeper Lee White to be at his best to tip his shot over, and a minute later Craig also went within inches of scoring when his shot flew just over.
Irlam’s response led to an exciting finish to the game, with Liam Robinson reducing the deficit with a long range shot into the corner of the Padiham net on 75 minutes, and Matthew Bowland grabbing an equaliser with five minutes to go.
Game over? Not on your life, as, with the mist getting thicker, Padiham got the killer goal with only three minutes of normal time remaining, not that many of the spectators at the Cricket Field end of the ground knew who scored it, until the public address system announced that Pickup was indeed the home player that had headed in Hunter’s cross to secure the points for the Storks, from what had been a thoroughly entertaining game to start the New Year.
Padiham travel to the High Peak District on Saturday to take on New Mills FC for their next league fixture.