WINSFORD celebrated their off-field victory over Witton Albion - by beating them to the signing of Rob Hopley from Middlewich Town - by registering their best performance and result on the field, on Saturday.
They not only took all the points from North West Counties First Division leaders Padiham but completely outplayed them as well in their clearest statement of intent so far.
New boy Hopley made his presence felt in only the first minute racing down the left-wing and releasing Jamie Williams with a perfectly weighted pass, but the midfielder's shot drifted wide.
Chris Melia, now back to full fitness and on top of his game, brought the first of several fine saves from goalkeeper Stuart Barton after two minutes and, while the Blues could not maintain such a frenetic pace for long, they were energised, urged by the excellent Martin Atwell in midfield to launch attack after attack and Padiham's ventures into their half of the pitch were rare indeed.
Hopley showed such pace and control Padiham regularly detached two defenders to guard against his threat and it was 44 minutes before the home side launched their first meaningful raid. A rare slip by Stuart Well-stead let in Neil Almand, but Matt Conkie's fingertips brilliantly turned away the shot.
Padiham came more into the game in the second-half but found the Winsford back four in top form and most of their attacks fizzled out. Ex-Blue Lee Anderson caused problems down the left and his pass to Danny Stub-berfield saw a shot that rebounded off the far post and into the grateful arms of Conkie.
Will Hurley's 79th-minute header stretched Barton to concede a corner.
Padiham won four corners in succession in the 84th minute and the last one was cleared to Hopley whose shot was deflected for a Winsford corner.
Iain Stanton took the flag kick with his left foot and the viciously in-swinging ball turned into a strike and it sailed over the crowded six-yard box and into the top corner of the net.
Blues had to absorb heavy pressure in the closing stages but, inspired by flawless centre-back Neil Marsh, were equal to it. UNITED: Conkie; Stanton, Booth, Marsh, Wellstead; Melia (Taylor 89), Quinn, Atwell, Williams; Hopley, Hurley.
Att: 83. Star Man: Martin Atwell, dynamic display. Next Best: Neil Marsh.
Team Rating: 5. Match Rating: 4.