Preston Grasshoppers’ trip to Otley tomorrow starts a run of three away fixtures in their next four games, which won’t ease the tensions being felt by Hoppers fans.
So far, they have drawn once and lost five times in succession away from Lightfoot Green.
Head coach Paul Arnold remains in positive mood despite losing six on the trot since the start of November and being next to bottom of National League Two North. “Otley away is a tough one,” he said, “but all we want is one good win to kick off our comeback.”
Otley have had an average season to date, winning six, losing six and drawing two to sit 10th in the table.
They have won three, drawn one and lost two at Cross Green, and lost their last game there – against Fylde, who are Hoppers’ next opponents – but bounced back with a 62-24 victory at bottom club Scunthorpe last Saturday.
Hoppers scored 25 points against Otley twice last season, losing the away clash by three points but winning by 15 at home.
This weekend, both Davidson brothers are back – Will at centre and Tom filling what has been something of a problem position at fly-half in his absence for the whole of the campaign so far.
Scott Jordan and Jordan Dorrington have work commitments, so Nick Gregson is at full-back and Sam Stott on the wing. Paul Millea start at hooker this week.
Fylde gave themselves breathing space with last weekend’s home win over third-placed Sedgley Park, who are now eight points behind them with a game in hand. Fylde trail leaders Caldy, who also have a game in hand, by four points.
Tomorrow they travel to Sheffield, who are fifth with eight victories and six defeats, including their last two outings.
The Tigers have won four out of seven at home, while Fylde have won six out of seven on the road in an overall record of 11 victories, one draw and two defeats.
Sheffield did the double last season, 24-15 at home, 12-17 at Fylde.
In North One West, for their last game of 2019, Vale of Lune head for Northwich, who are fourth following nine victories and three defeats.
They have played only four home games so far and won them all. Vale recorded a rare victory at Northwich on their last visit and went on to do the double.
With the universities on Christmas vacation, they include Ethan Robertson and Henry Higginson in a list of 18 names from which the starting line-up will be selected.
Hoppers: Gregson; Spence, Fitzpatrick, W Davidson, Stott; T Davidson, Goigh; Blanchard, Millea, Miller, Howard, Murray, Wallbank, Harrison, Lamprey. Replacements: Mabaya, Taylor, Procter, B Dorrington, Hurst.
Vale (from): Manning, Fern, Forrest, Robertson, Higginson, Bolton, Briggs, Swarbrick; Branford, Dokter, Hesketh, Pillow, Cvijanovic, Fellows, Powers, Snell, Ayrton, Robinson.