Busy weekend in store for Hoppers

Chris Gale
Chris Gale
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The Easter weekend brings double headers for Preston Grasshoppers and Fylde as they face each other at Ansdell in the Lancashire Cup on Monday, following league games tomorrow.

Vale of Lune and Kendal have a Saturday off in their respective leagues, but Vale travel to Wigan on Monday for a Lancashire Trophy tie.

Tomorrow, Hoppers visit Caldy in National Two North, still seeking an eighth successive victory after the postponement of last week’s fixture against Luctonians, which has been rearranged for May 11.

Hoppers won 20-18 at Caldy last season and also beat them 31-22 at Lightfoot Green back in November.

They have won their last four away games, with a total of seven victories, a draw and four defeats on the road. Overall, they have won 16, drawn one and lost six.

Three Hoppers forwards – hooker Phil Mills, lock Ally Murray and flanker Eddie Webster – are unavailable as they are in the North of England Under-20s squad over Easter for a national development and selection weekend ahead of the England Counties Under-20s’ two games in Georgia in May.

So Alex Austin takes over from Murray and Chris Gale will hook. Half-back Tom Smith, back at the club after a spell away, is on the bench.

Fylde play host to Tynedale who, given their lowly position in National One, surprisingly beat them 45-10 in the North East in November.

Tynedale are 12th following nine victories and 16 defeats, with just two wins out of 12 on the road.

They have won their last two games at home – including one of only three fixtures that beat the weather last Saturday – but have lost their last four away games.

Remarkably, they have collected a league-best 21 bonus points – 11 for scoring four or more tries and 10 for losing by less than eight points – and have scored just two fewer points than they have conceded (650 to 652).

This is the hosts’ penultimate league game at Ansdell in this campaign, four of their last six being away from home.

Fylde have named Warren Spragg on the wing, as Ben Rath is also involved with the North Under-20s weekend.

Paul Arnold is due to play his 300th league game in a 13-year career which includes spells at Sedgley Park, Orrell, Nottingham, Caldy and Moseley.

Fylde are hoping to reschedule last Saturday’s postponed visit to Macclesfield as a midweek fixture rather than extending the season into May and clashing with the county championship.

Hoppers and Fylde will, of course, wait until after tomorrow’s games 
before finalising their selections for the Lancashire Cup semi-final on Monday (kick-off 3pm).

Neither side has had to play a game to get to this stage of the competition, which Hoppers won for the third time last season, after both had walkovers in the first round. The other semi-finalists are Sedgley Park and Widnes.

Vale’s Easter Monday action in the Lancashire Trophy is a second-round 
tie.

Still fourth in North One West, they visit a Wigan side which sits seventh in South Lancs/Cheshire One – one rung below them in the league structure.

Vale had a walkover in the first round, while Wigan beat Tyldesley. Vale fly-half Jimmy Moore is definitely unavailable.

Hoppers: Taylor; Hughes, Baines, Ward, Birchall; Allen, Aikman; Irving, Gale, Morton, Gore, Austin, Keenan, Wallace, Moon.

Fylde: C Briers; Spragg, S Briers, Wallwork, Brennand; Johnson, de la Harpe; Birchall, Roddam, Griffiths, Arnold, Rawlings, Stewart, McGinnis, S Beaumont.