Padiham put down an important marker in the NWC Premier Division promotion push when they beat title rivals Maine Road 1-0 at their Brantingham Road Ground.
A high tempo start to the game saw the home side come out of the starting blocks slightly quicker than the Storks and after firing an early effort over the crossbar, Thomas Bailey profited from a mix up in Padiham’s defence only to be denied by a brave stop from Sean Davis.
Mark Sharples’s acrobatic attempt from a long throw in after 12 minutes proved to be the away side’s first real goal attempt while Joe Garvin’s ferocious 30-yard drive in the 35th minute needed Gregory Hall to be at his best to tip the effort over the bar.
Garvin went close again two minutes later when he curled another right-sided effort just over, and at half-time the scoreline was goalless.
Steve Wilkes’s side bossed the early stages of the second half with an early Kieran Pickup effort deflected for a corner while Hall made a superb double save to keep out shots by Elliot Dunn and Joe Garvin.
The Storks had a slice of luck in the 66th minute when a ball driven in from the left found Bailey but his shot flew over the bar. The same player then unleashed a 25-yard volley two minutes later which flashed past the upright.
However, it was Padiham who broke the deadlock in the 71st minute when Sharples’s centre from the right found substitute Nathan Bond unmarked and with his first touch of the game the forward headed powerfully past Hall to put the Storks 1-0 ahead.
Padiham went close to doubling their lead four minutes later after a ball in from Garvin saw defender Kieran Fletcher head inches wide of his own post while leading scorer Ben Allen headed Garvin’s deflected cross over in the 78th minute.
But before the final whistle sounded Maine Road committed men forward in search of a leveller and only a last ditch block from Liam Foster denied skipper Neil Chappell inside the five minutes of added on time.
The Storks are in action tonight as they travel to Bootle for another top of the table clash, kick-off 7-45 p.m.
Elsewhere, Padiham Reserve team striker Martin Trickett hit four goals in a 6-1 win over Runcorn Linnets at the Arbories.
Trickett scored two in each half to send the Storks top of the Reserve Division table while Nathan Egan and Daniel Haworth added to the scoring.Nigel Johnson scored a consolation from the penalty spot for the visitors.