Preston Grasshoppers have a lot of ground to make up on opponents Huddersfield
Three weeks ago, just four points separated Huddersfield and Preston Grasshoppers, who clash on the other side of the Pennines tomorrow.
Now the gap is up to 11, thanks to the Yorkshire club’s back-to-back bonus-point wins, while Hoppers were collecting only three points from a narrow defeat and last Saturday’s heart-breaking draw.
Those victories have moved Huddersfield out of the relegation zone, while Paul Arnold’s men remain next-to-bottom of National League Two North.
Remarkably, both clubs have drawn three times this season, with Huddersfield winning six of their other 16. At home, they have four wins, two draws and four defeats.
Hoppers have four victories and 12 defeats as well as those three draws, and have won away from home only once – at bottom club Scunthorpe.
But at least they have won one and drawn two of their last five fixtures since a barren November and early December.
Huddersfield won 29-22 at Lightfoot Green in October, courtesy of a stoppage-time converted try – just one of a number of gut-wrenching late setbacks for Hoppers this season.
Prop Noah Millers’ hamstring injury means that John Blanchard’s return on loan is timely. Scrum-half James Gough and forward Rob Meadows are also added to the rest of those on duty last weekend.
Fylde’s form on the road has been a bit rocky of late – losing two of their last three away from Ansdell – so they will be looking to iron out the bumps when they travel to Stourbridge.
The Midlanders are seventh in National Two North after eight victories and 11 defeats, but have won only half of their 10 home games so far. Second-placed Fylde have 14 victories, a draw and four defeats and comfortably beat Stourbridge 41-19 at Ansdell in October.
Vale of Lune take a break from North One West league action and were due to host Rochdale in a Lancashire Cup tie, but the visitors have pulled out.
So Vale go straight through to the semi-finals, where they will meet Broughton Park on a date still to be arranged.
Hoppers (from): Jordan, J Dorrington, W Davidson, Stott, Hurst, Gregson, Browne, T Davidson, Gough, Squirrell; Mabaya, Madden, Taylor, Trippier, Blanchard, Howard, Murray, Carlson, B Dorrington, Harrison, Meadows, Wallbank.