STEVE Wilkes has rescued Kieran Pickup’s career by bringing him back for a second spell at The Arbories.

The 20-year-old hot shot joined Kendal Town and later Bamber Bridge, after he enjoyed one of the most productive spells of his career under Wilkes at Padiham a couple of years ago.


Wilkes said: “Kieran wasn’t getting much game time at Bamber Bridge, and when I ran into his dad during the summer he told me that Kieran was considering packing the game in.

“I couldn’t believe it, so I said to Kieran, ‘Come and play a few games for us, just to see how it goes’.

“He did struggle a bit early on, but I’ve seen his confidence grow and there’s a smile back on his face again.”

Wilkes, who has seen Pickup score seven goals this term, added: “He’d just lost his way a bit, and I’m sure he will carry on scoring because he is an instinctive finisher and a very hard worker.”

Pickup’s hat-trick at Maine Road on Monday also saw Padiham clock up their first clean sheet in the league this term, lifting them into the top half of the table.

Wilkes also handed a club debut to experienced Lancaster City goalkeeper Mike Donlon at Brantingham Road.

The 26-year-old was on the bench for the Dolly Blues in Lancaster’s 2-0 FA Cup win at Padiham last weekend, before signing for the Storks hours later.

“It is a great signing, it gives us added competition because Sean Davies is struggling with a thigh strain,” added Wilkes.

It could prove to be a season of consolidation for Padiham, though, who plunged out of the Northern Premier League last season.

“We are still coming to terms with relegation, it hurt us, and I think the physicality of the Unibond League caught us out.”

After three defeats in a row, Monday’s welcome win at Maine Road will have boosted morale as they prepare for a couple of testing fixtures on the road.

The Storks travel to Greater Manchester again tomorrow, where they face West Didsbury and Chorlton at the Recreation Ground, before they make the short hop to Nelson on Tuesday.

“I’ve set the lads a goal of 10 points from the next four games,” said Wilkes. “I can’t praise the character of the side enough, but they are still finding their feet in this league and we are going to need time to adapt again.”

Darwen, meanwhile, go to Abbey Hey tomorrow while Barnoldswick host Runcorn. In Division One, Brent Peters’ Bacup Borough host Hanley Town.