Preston Grasshoppers coach Paul Arnold is aiming high

With safety assured, Preston Grasshoppers head coach Paul Arnold has readjusted his sights for the rest of the National League Two North campaign.

Friday, 8th March 2019, 7:00 am
Action from Hoppers' 21-5 home victory over Tynedale last weekend (photo: Mike Craig)

At the start of the season, he asked his side for a minimum of 60 points to avoid any relegation worries.

That having been comfortably achieved – 69 points with six games left – Arnold now wants his players to aim to get at least 85 points, a target that looks easily achievable, with games against Peterborough Lions, South Leicester and Stourbridge, who are all in the bottom five, and Hinckley, who are just below Hoppers.

First up are bottom club Peterborough, whose relegation could be confirmed by a Preston victory tomorrow on their inaugural visit to the Lions’ “den”.

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Hoppers are now up to seventh, equalling their highest position of the season, after their fourth successive win last weekend.

Making it five in a row tomorrow would be their best run of the campaign. In total, they have 12 victories and 12 defeats.

In addition to setting a new points target, Arnold continues to look at his whole squad to build depth for next season.

To that end, there are places on the bench this week for Dan Madden, Alex Jobson and Will Davidson, brother of fly-half Tom, who gets a first call after impressing with the seconds since joining from Wharfedale.

Four of last Saturday’s replacements start this week – Scott Jordan at full-back, Sam Stott in the centre, Ollie Tripper at hooker and Luke Procter in the second row.

Fylde are back to third in Two North as they also head for the East Midlands tomorrow. They visit South Leicester, battling against relegation in 13th place.

Vale of Lune’s position in the North Premier League looks increasingly precarious as they remain next-to-bottom and 15 points adrift of the 11th-placed club.

They have lost their last four fixtures – including two at home – and return to Powderhouse Lane tomorrow to take on sixth-placed Sandal.

The Vale starting XV has a more familiar look this week, although still lacking Jordan Dorrington, Aiden Yates and Harry Fellows.

Damon Hall and Fergus Owens return to the threequarter line, Ben Dorrington and Billy Swarbrick resume their half-back partnership and Andy Powers reverts to hooker. James Robinson and Jack Ayrton also return to the back five.

Hoppers: Jordan; Spence, Fitzpatrick, Stott, Crow; T Davidson, Gough; Purcell, Trippier, Altham, Howard, Procter, Carlson, Murray, Lamprey. Replacements: Madden, Millea, Leatherbarrow, W Davidson, Jobson.

Vale: Ramwell; Hall, Owens, Robertson, Fern; B Dorrington, Swarbrick; Stevens, Powers, Pillow, Foxcroft, Robinson, Ford, Ayrton, Wallbank.