Preston Grasshoppers’ head coach Paul Arnold admits it is tough being at the top.
The men from Lightfoot Green have opened up an 11-point lead at the top of the North Premier after last weekend’s 38-5 win over Billingham.
While thrilled to see his men flying high after winning 12 and drawing one of their 13 league games, Arnold said: “It’s really stressful being on top of the league.
“We are pressing the players really hard and we can’t relax until we start pulling away from the rest.
“But to be 11 points clear halfway through the season, I’m pleased with that.”
Preston’s unbeaten run is their best since the 2004/05 season when, under coach Alex Keay, they won 13 games in a row on their way to becoming North One champions.
Hoppers lost three players to injury last Saturday – Matt Lamprey, Connor Trueman and Alex Hurst – so Tyler Spence comes in on the wing, Sam Stott at centre and Matt Frings in the back row.
Forward Ryan Purcell, who made an impressive appearance off the bench last week, is unavailable tomorrow.
Elsewhere, Vale of Lune have now lost four North One West fixtures to the weather, so will be hoping it relents to let them round off the year with a home game against Blackburn, whom they defeated 31-10 away in September.
Vale still top the table by six points after nine wins and one defeat. Blackburn are seventh, following eight victories out of 13.
Ben Dorrington returns at centre for the hosts, compared to last week’s scheduled starting line-up.
Fylde, still bottom of National League One, travel to Loughborough Students, who are 13th after five wins and nine defeats. Fylde have won three out of 14.
Hoppers: Jordan; Spence, Stott, Fitzpatrick, Crosley; Ward, Squirrell; Mabaya, Millea, Altham, Roddy, Arnold, Gale, Frings, A Murray. Replacements: Trippier, Granby, M Murray.
Vale: J Dorrington; Jacques, Owens, B Dorrington, Hall; Finan, Swarbrick; Ferguson, Powers, Plllow, Fellows, Crookall, Ayrton, Stewart, Wallbank. Replacements: Cowey, Cvijanovic, Ramwell.