PADIHAM secretary Alan Smith says the Storks will be ready off the field for promotion – but insists there is no pressure on the players to claim the North West Counties League First Division title.

The Storks make the trip over the Pennines to Silsden tonight knowing they will stay at the summit no matter what happens and are now one of the favourites to win the championship ahead of a first versus second Arbories clash with Maine Road on Saturday.

They have applied for promotion and are now working hard on £40,000 worth of ground improvements to bring the Arbories up to scratch for the Evo-Stik League First Division North. That work is bang on course and Smith said: “We can’t control what happens on the pitch - the only people who can do that are the players – but we will certainly be right and in order off it.

“We applied to the FA for promotion and that was accepted and we had a bit of work to do but that is on course and will be ready.

“We thought that it would cost around £30,000 to complete but that has now risen to £40,000 and now we are waiting for news of an application to the FA’s Football Stadium Improvement Fund. We have also had donations of £6,000 from two Padiham town councillors and we are digging into club funds.

“But it is important that we do this because we are central to the town and the community. We host functions, Age UK used the club when their base was being refurbished and at the elections our clubhouse is turned into a polling station.

“How much more a part of your community can you be?

“Any non-league club at our level is and I don’t understand why some clubs try to throw money they haven’t got at promotion.”

While Smith is delighted with the on-field efforts, he admits the current charge has come as something as a surprise.

“At the start of the season we said to the manager Steve Wilkes that we wanted to build a team of local lads and if we could finish in the top 10 we would be happy and then kick on the season after,” he said.

“There were no great expectations and it certainly isn’t a case of us spending beyond our means, it is all down to the manager and the players and hopefully they can keep on what they are doing between now and the first week in May when the season finishes.”

The Storks go into tonight’s game at Silsden unbeaten in 13 league games and that will set them up nicely for Saturday’s big one against second-placed Maine Road.

And Smith is hoping for a bumper crowd, especially with Burnley having no game.

“It’s a big game and it would be great to see a big crowd come along,” he said. “We do get a few Burnley fans coming along when they are away and I would love to see a 200-plus turnout.

“If people need their football fix, first v second is as good a place to be.”

Meanwhile, the Storks have been disqualified from the League Challenge Cup, having played an ineligible player in the previous round in their tie against AFC Blackpool.