Hoppers in hot form

Alex Zavallis-Roebuck of Preston Grasshoppers
Alex Zavallis-Roebuck of Preston Grasshoppers
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Resurgent Preston Grasshoppers cross the Pennines with hopes high tomorrow.

For not only are they on a run of seven unbeaten games but they have won three of their last four visits to Roses rivals Otley.

Nevertheless, head coach Garth Dew said after last Saturday’s victory over Tynedale: “Otley are always a challenge. We have got to improve our game management.

“There are a lot of lads in the second team raring to challenge for places.”

Theose who are not already in the senior squad will have to wait a little longer for their chances, though, with experienced heads Alan Holmes and Alex Zavallis-Roebuck coming into the starting line-up at hooker and centre.

‘Zav’ replaces Tom Hurst, who injured a shoulder last weekend.

The return of Luke Proctor at No.8 allows Ally Murray to switch to lock alongside Ryan Birchall-Feeney, while prop John Peterson makes his 150th first-team appearance.

Full-back Sean Taylor, who passed 200 points for the season last Saturday, is now the leading scorer in the top four leagues.

Otley are sixth in National League Two North, two places and four points ahead of Hoppers, who have a game in hand.

Vale of Lune, who have moved up to fifth in North One West, host 10th-placed Blackburn tomorrow.

Jonty Higgin and Fergus Owens are reunited at centre for Vale, the latter switching from full-back, where Adam Macluskie takes over.

Rhys Randall is unavailable, so Adam Foxcroft, a replacement last week, comes in at lock.

Fylde – the masters of the narrow defeat, with six losses by three points or less – host struggling Blaydon in National One this weekend.

The visitors are third from bottom after six victories and 14 defeats.

With Greg Nicholls unavailable, Jordan Dorrington moves to scrum-half and promising youngster Tom Morton starts at full-back.

Phil Mills and Adam Lewis are called into the front row and Richard Whiteside joins the bench.

Hoppers: S Taylor; Jordan, Zavallis-Roebuck, Forster, Allen; M Murray, Moulding; Peterson, Holmes, Altham, Birchall-Feeney, A Murray, Napier, Lees, Proctor. Replacements: C Taylor, Madden, S Gale, Walker, Viney.

Vale: Macluskie; Birchall, Higgin, Owens, T Crookall; Dorrington, Dobson; Cowey, D Baines, Yates, Foxcroft, A Crookall, Powers, S Wallbank, Ayrton. Replacements: Pillow, Rainford, Turton.

Fylde: Morton; Spragg, Briers, Dowds, Brennand; Johnson, Dorrington; Birchall, Mills, Lewis, Gray, G Rawlings, Stewat, Vernon, Fairbrother. Replacements: Griffiths, Burtonwood, Beaumont, S Rawlings, Whiteside.