Same again as Hoppers host Brum

Ian Bird
Ian Bird
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Following their much-improved performance in a 33-31 defeat at Sedgley Park, Preston Grasshoppers will be hoping to make the most of the opportunity provided by back-to-back home games against clubs in the bottom half of National League Two North.

Tenth-placed Leicester Lions are the visitors next Saturday but first Hoppers welcome Birmingham/Solihull, who are third from bottom.

The Midlanders have just one victory from their first six games, five of which have been at home.

Their only success was against bottom club Stockport, while their only away fixture ended in defeat at table-toppers Ampthill.

But three of their defeats have been by just two points and overall they have picked up five bonus points to keep them out of the bottom two.

Birmingham/Solihull ended last season five places above Preston, in sixth, after two closely-fought encounters; Hoppers won 16-8 at home but lost 29-24 away.

Garth Dew’s men will be hoping to banish memories of their last home game, a big defeat by Ampthill and to bounce back from two defeats in a row.

They have won only one of three at Lightfoot Green and three out of six overall. Those half-dozen games have produced 15 Preston tries, remarkably shared by 11 different players.

Unsurprisingly, after last Saturday’s strong performance, Hoppers name the same starting line-up, with just one change on the bench, where prop Pete Altham returns.

Vale of Lune will be looking to climb from their sixth spot in North One West when they host 11th-placed New Brighton, who have lost two in a row and have been defeated in both their away fixtures so far.

In all, the Wirral club has won two and lost four following promotion, and collected four bonus points.

Vale have won two out of three at Powderhouse Lane and three out of six altogether.

Ian Bird returns at centre for Vale and Adam Macluskie retains the fly-half berth he took last weekend.

Lock Ben Charnley is scheduled for his 50th game and, with both the Baines brothers injured, Michael Barker continues in the back row and experienced Malcolm Fowler is among the forward replacements.

Meanwhile, Kendal continue on their merry way at the top of North One West, unbeaten in six games, two of them away from home.

Tomorrow they travel up to Carlisle, who lie ninth after three victories and three defeats.

Fylde, seeking a third successive win in National One, are at home to next-to-bottom Old Albanians, who have lost all six so far and picked up a solitary bonus point.

It is three out of three at home for the second-placed Ansdell club and five victories out of six overall.

There were two high-scoring games last season, Fylde winning 45-41 on the road and 50-30 at home on their way to finishing fourth. Albanians won on their only other visit to the Woodlands two seasons ago.

There is a vast gap in their points differences this time – Fylde have scored 203 and conceded 111, while Albanians have scored just 84 and let in 196.

Dave Fairbrother, back from duties with the Navy, comes into the back row for the hosts and Colin Phillips starts at prop.

Hoppers: Embleton; Allen, Baines, Woof, Kendall; Carter, Whyte; Peterson, Mills, Madden, Tomlinson, Murray, Napier, Walker, Taylor. Replacements: Tuff, Altham, Lees, Ward, Kindred.

Vale: Weeks; Lamberton, Bird, Dorrington, Ball; Macluskie, Swarbrick; Hesketh, Berry, Moreira, Charnley, Foxcroft, Baker, Garnett, Wallbank.

Fylde: Spragg; Dorrington, Briers, S Rawlings, Brennand; Johnson, de la Harpe; Griffiths, Burtonwood, Phillips, Arnold, Robinson, Fairbrother, Stewart, Beaumont. Replacements: Wild, Maher, Vernon, Kenyon.