The halfway point in the season sees Preston Grasshoppers seeking to end a two-match losing run tomorrow when they visit Leicester Lions – the one team in National Two North whom they have not met yet in this campaign.
Hoppers slipped back to fourth after last Saturday’s home defeat by leaders Stourbridge, while the Lions are 14 points behind them in eighth following seven victories and seven defeats.
They have won five of their seven home games, while Preston have won three, drawn one and lost two on the road – including a draw and a defeat in their last two away trips.
Overall, Hoppers have nine victories, a draw and four defeats, along with 12 bonus points – four more than the Lions.
They did the double last season in two close-fought games, winning 38-36 at Leicester after a 17-13 victory at home.
Last weekend’s bruising defeat by Stourbridge has taken its toll on Hoppers, with Karl Fitzpatrick, Will Keenan and replacements Wayne Steel and Rich Morton all suffering injuries.
Josh Purnell comes in at fly-half and Eddie Webster takes over in the back row, with Killian Wallace, Lewis Allen and Ian Sibbit among those drafted in on the bench.
Vale of Lune have moved back to third in North One West, leapfrogging last Saturday’s victims, Carlisle.
They are four points behind leaders Liverpool St Helens and two adrift of Sale, with a game in hand of both clubs.
Tomorrow, they host eighth-placed Wilmslow, whom they defeated 46-34 in Cheshire in the second game of the campaign.
They also beat them 30-21 at Powderhouse Lane last season after losing the away fixture 27-35.
Wilmslow have won six and lost seven this term, with three victories out of six on the road.
Vale drew their last home game after six straight wins on their own patch and have won nine, drawn one and lost two in total.
They have nine bonus points, one more than Wilmslow and are still top scorers in the league, with 437, despite having played one game less.
Vale have delayed selection, but are definitely without prop James Hesketh, who has an injured shoulder.
However, Jimmy Moore returns at fly-half.
Fylde head for Blackheath in National One on the back of some poor away form – they have won just one out of six, including defeat on their last two trips.
Overall, their seven victories and seven defeats leave them sixth, aided by 11 bonus points.
Blackheath are just a point and two places behind, with one less bonus point in an identical record of seven wins out of 14.
At home, the Londoners have won four out of six.
They thumped Fylde 59-22 at Blackheath towards the end of last season after losing 28-22 at Ansdell.
There is not much between their scoring records, either, Blackheath having run in 47 more than Fylde but conceded six more.
Centre Steve Briers returns to the Fylde threequarter line, with brother Chris at full-back this week and Ollie Viney on the wing. Paul Arnold is back at lock.
After last Saturday’s postponement at Percy Park, Kendal head for Waterloo this weekend in National Three North.
The Cumbrians remain rooted to the foot of the table, while the Merseysiders are four places and 12 points above them after winning five out of 13 games, and three out of seven at home.
Kendal still have only two victories out of 12 – the first of them by 18-16 over Waterloo at Mint Bridge. They are on a run of five straight losses away from home and eight defeats in a row overall. Both clubs have six bonus points.
Hoppers: Taylor; Hughes, Baines, Ward, Birchall; Purnell, Kindred; Irving, Mills, Madden, Gore, Murray, Murphy, Webster, Moon.
Fylde: C Briers’ Viney, S Briers, Barrow, Brennand; Johnson, de la Harpe; Birchall, Roddam, Lavelle, Arnold, Banks, Stewart, McGinnis, S Beaumont.