WHEN he took over as manager at Northwich Victoria, Steve Wilkes studied the fixture list.

A game on the first Saturday in November stood out.

There were others too, of course, but a date with former club Padiham is personal.

He left the Storks in August, ending a decade-long association that spanned more than 500 games and included historic promotion to the Northern Premier League.

And for that, Wilkes feels, he wasn’t given the thanks such an achievement deserved.

“Tomorrow will be strange for me,” he told the Guardian.

“I want to beat them, of course I do, and I’d be lying if I said any different.

“But a win is important for Northwich, not just for me.

“We’ve got a little bit of momentum behind us, and another three points will help us take another small step forward.

“I don’t want playing Padiham to distract us from that and for the game to take on extra significance when it shouldn’t do.

“That club was a big part of my life, and it’s not any longer.

“Vics matter more, and even in the short time I’ve been here I know this is a proper football club run by smashing people.”

Northwich came from behind twice to beat AFC Liverpool in midweek, extending a winning sequence to four matches in the North West Counties League’s top-flight.

It is more than 18 months since Vics have put together a run like it.

Padiham, beaten only once in their past 10 games, will likely provide a stern test.

Liam Smith and Dixon Lambert assumed joint charge after Wilkes’ departure, switching from Colne where they had assisted Steve Cunningham.

Wilkes said: “They’ve done a good job, and have been winning games with new guys they’ve brought in.

“That’s what we’ve done at Northwich.

“I’ve never come up against them as managers previously because of course Steve was in charge for the games against Colne.

“There are plenty of lads still playing who were there with me, and I know what they’re about.

“I don’t know if that’s an advantage or not; it can work both ways.

“We can’t worry too much about them, and it’s more important we carry on from where we left off in midweek.

“I had to give them the hairdryer for the first time during the interval because we’d been so poor.

“They went back to the good habits we’re trying to instil in the second-half, and we scored four times in 45 minutes.”