For their only home fixture in an seven-week spell either side of the festive season, Preston Grasshoppers could hardly have been landed with more difficult opponents this weekend.
Sale FC are second in National League Two North after winning 11 of their 15 games, while Hoppers dropped to bottom place last Saturday, although they do have a game in hand of the other four clubs most closely involved in the relegation battle.
This is Preston’s first fixture at Lightfoot Green since November 12; with the Christmas break, the next is scheduled there for January 7.
After another agonisingly close defeat last Saturday, Hoppers ring the changes.
Cameron Robinson returns on the wing, with Tom Forster and Lewis Allen switching to centre and Will Hunt taking over at fly-half.
Up front, John Peterson starts at prop, Chris Roddy is at lock, with Ally Murray moving to No 8, and Sam Gale returns at flanker. Hooker Phil Mills, who missed last week’s game through injury, is on the bench.
Likely to feature in the visitors’ line-up are ex-Fylde stars Chris Johnson, Danny Birchall and the Rawlings brothers, Gareth and Scott, who have all moved to Heywood Road this season.
It’s already the start of the second half of the season in North One West, and tomorrow, Vale of Lune will be seeking revenge for a heavy defeat back in September.
They went down 31-0 that day, but both clubs have settled down in mid-table.
Andy Powers is out of the home line-up with a broken cheek bone and centre Tom Crookall is also injured. Dan Rainford props in place of Powers and Ben Charnley comes into the second row, with Tom Cvijanovic switching to flanker.
Jordan Fern returns on the wing and there’s a reshuffle among the rest of the backs, with Ben Dorrington at fly-half, and Tom Slater and Fergus Owens at centre.
Fylde have now lost all six away games in National League One as they head to Loughborough Students.
Sam Bedlow and Ollie Brennand come into the three-quarter line, Greg Nicholls returns at scrum-half, Jack Turley is at lock and Evan Stewart starts in the back row.