Something has got to give at Hoppers

Andy Napier in action for Preston Grasshoppers

Andy Napier in action for Preston Grasshoppers

  • Hoppers out to snap three-match losing run
  • Opponents on Saturday Harrogate have lost their last four
  • Preston coach Garth Dew targets wins in all the team’s remaining matches
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With Preston Grasshoppers having lost their last three games and Harrogate their last four, something has got to give when the clubs clash at Lightfoot Green tomorrow.

That is, unless the visitors pull off a remarkable fourth away draw of the campaign.

We have had a week off to get bodies fit and I can see no reason why we can’t win every game from here

Despite their recent run, the Yorkshiremen have the edge on paper, lying sixth in National League Two North compared to Hoppers’ 12th.

They also did the double last season (45-40 at home, 25-15 in Preston) and won this year’s first meeting 27-9 at Harrogate.

But, notwithstanding the fact that Hoppers are just seven points outside the relegation zone, head coach Garth Dew remains upbeat.

After coming close to defeating third-placed Chester a fortnight ago, he said: “We have had a week off to get bodies fit and I can see no reason why we can’t win every game from here.”

Their last five fixtures after this weekend are made up of visits to Luctonians and Hull, who are both in the bottom four, a trip to eighth-placed Huddersfield and home dates with Stourbridge – only five points above Hoppers – and fourth-placed Caldy.

So tomorrow would be the perfect time to improve their home record of five wins out of 12.

Two players who were unavailable for Hoppers at Chester a fortnight ago – Scott Jordan and skipper Phil Baines – return to the back division, while up front, Tom McGuinness starts at prop and Andy Napier is in the back row.

After two welcome victories in a row, Vale of Lune travel north again, to Wigton, with high hopes, for the Cumbrians are bottom of North One West, with just 13 points from two victories and 19 defeats, plus a miserly five bonus points (Vale have 16).

Their only two wins came at home, where they have also lost nine.

But Vale know that former Powderhouse Lane favourite Malcolm Brown, now in charge at Wigton, will be keen to put one over on his old side, especially as his current club crashed to an 81-12 defeat in Lancaster in November. Vale have lost centre Ian Bird to a leg injury, but welcome back winger James Birchall.

Adam Macluskie moves to centre, Rob Lamberton switches to the other wing and Neil Walker comes in at full-back.

Forward Michael Barker is on the bench after being out injured since January.

Four of Fylde’s last six games in National League One are away from home, starting with tomorrow’s trip to Wharfedale and ending with consecutive visits to London to play Richmond and Blackheath. But they will be keen to make it a happy swansong for Mark Nelson, who is stepping down as head coach at the end of the campaign.

The man who is taking over, lock Paul Arnold, has already announced his coaching squad for next term – Warren Spragg, Alex Loney and Stephen Briers.

Hoppers: Jordan; Baines, Russell, Woof, O’Donnell; Allen, Kindred; McGuinness, Mills, Altham, Tomlinson, Banks, A Murray, Napier, Taylor. Replacements: Wilkinson, Madden, Morton, Lees, M Murray.

Vale: Walker; Lamberton, Macluskie, Lomas, Birchall; Carter, Swarbrick; McLaren-Dorrington, D Baines, Pillow, Powers, A Baines, Ayrton, Garnett, Wallbank. Replacements: Barker, McIntosh, Owens.

Fylde: Briers; Spragg, S Rawlings, Dowd, Brennand; Johnson, Dorrington; Griffiths, Burtonwood, Lewis.Gore, G Rawlings, Goodman, Vernon, Stewart. Replacements: Birchall, Arnold, Fairbrother, Maher, de la Harpe.