Hoppers coach feels upbeat

Managing director of shirt sponsors Haleys Business Advisors Tim Haley with Preston Grasshoppers first team captain Andrew Napier

Managing director of shirt sponsors Haleys Business Advisors Tim Haley with Preston Grasshoppers first team captain Andrew Napier

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Preston Grasshoppers launch their National League Two North campaign with a trip to Chester tomorrow, writes PAUL OUTHWAITE.

The Cheshire side whitewashed them at Lightfoot Green lasy November, winning 29-0.

But Hoppers made a much better fist of things in February’s away game, losing by just 16-13.

Hoppers followed up a comfortable warm-up win over Newport (Salop) with a 40-7 victory over old rivals Waterloo last Thursday.

Coach Garth Dew said: “There were encouraging signs against Newport and our performance against Waterloo was up ten-fold.

“We looked very dangerous in the backs, created some nice stuff and if we’d been a bit more clinical we would have scored a lot more tries.

“Ollie Viney has revolutionised the back line – they are looking a lot sharper. There were some quality performances against Waterloo and there is a lot of competition for places.”

Viney himself, who starts the season at centre tomorrow, said: “We have a good squad with a good mix. I think we will surprise some teams.”

Two former Fylde youngsters make their league starts for Hoppers – Charles Hough on the wing and Tom Forster at fly-half.

And there is a senior debut at lock for John McKenzie, a former Hoppers colt who has skippered England Counties Under-18s.

Sean Taylor, back from Ballymena, is at full-back and flanker Andy Napier is the new captain.

Vale of Lune begin their North One West season at home to Penrith, who finished four places above them in fourth last April.

Fylde kick off their latest National League One season at home to Loughborough Students.

Hoppers: Taylor; Jordan, Viney, Russell, Hough; Forster, Kindred; Madden, Tuff, McGuinness, McKenzie, Tomlinson, Napier, Lees, A Murray. Replacements: Wilkinson, Mabaya, Gale, M Murray, Woof.

Vale: Birchall; Dobson, Higgin, Macluskie, Bird; Owens, Lomas; McLaren-Dorrington, D Baines, Pillow, A Baines, Randall, Wallbank, Ayrton, Dorrington. Replacements: Field, Robinson, Barker.

Fylde: Spragg; Dorrington, Briers, S Rawlings, Brennand; Johnson, Nicholls; Birchall, Mills, Griffiths, Arnold, G Rawlings, Goodman, Fairbrother, Moon. Replacements: Lavelle, Maher, Frisk, de la Harpe, Allen.