Preston Grasshoppers already in a relegation battle

Action from last Saturday's defeat against Loughborough Students (photo: Mike Craig)
Action from last Saturday's defeat against Loughborough Students (photo: Mike Craig)

November’s four bruising defeats pile extra pressure on Preston Grasshoppers’ next two games – against their closest rivals in the battle to claw their way out of the relegation zone.

That is where they now find themselves for the first time this season.

Tomorrow’s opponents Luctonians are third from bottom of National League Two North, two points ahead of Hoppers, while next Saturday’s visitors Hull, are a further two points above them.

Luctonians have, in fact, won one fewer game than Hoppers – two victories, a draw and nine defeats, compared to the visitors’ three wins, a draw and eight defeats.

But the Herefordshire club have collected an impressive 10 bonus points to Hoppers’ four.

Remarkably, Luctonians have lost all five home games, but gave high-flying Fylde a shock in the most recent, losing by only 25-27.

Their successes have come at Tynedale and Scunthorpe.

Hoppers have lost their last four games and also their last four away fixtures.

Tomorrow, head coach Paul Arnold rings the changes, with Jordan Dorrington switching to full-back and a threequarter line of Scott Jordan, Alex Hurst, Sam Stott and Tyler Spence. Sam Wallbank is at lock with Toby Harrison in the back row.

Fylde slipped to second place last weekend, following their second defeat to go with nine victories and one draw.

Tomorrow, they travel to Otley, who are 10th and have lost their last two games – both away from home.

Fylde did the double over them last season, 24-14 at home and 14-3 away.

In North One West, Vale of Lune travel to Broughton Park for a rearranged fixture following last month’s weather washout.

Vale will be 
without Michael Forrest, who has an ankle injury, and 
the unavailable Henry Higginson.

Callum Kyle and Andy Powers form a new centre partnership, flanker Blake Snell makes his first start, James Hesketh props and Scott Manning is at full-back after a four-week lay-off.

Hoppers: J Dorrington; Jordan, Hurst, Stott, Spence; B Dorington, Gough; Miller, Taylor, Blanchard, Murray, Wallbank, Carlson, Harrison, Lamprey. Replacements: Mabaya, Millea, Procter, Squirrell, Gregson.

Vale: Manning; Fern, Kyle, Powers, Eastwood; Briggs, Swarbrick; Heaketh, Dokter, Pillow, Cvijanovic, Fellows, Snell, Ayrton, Robinson. Replacements: Yates, Tagg, tba.