Dew relies on big away-day success

Mark Murray
Mark Murray
  • Coach Dew predicts big performance from Hoppers
  • Win will ease relegation worries
  • Fylde face Ealing Trailfinders
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Preston Grasshoppers’ last long-distance trek of the season tomorrow takes them to Luctonians on a day when six of the bottom seven clubs in National League Two North play each other.

Tenth-placed Stourbridge host Birmingham/Solihull, who are 15th, Hull (14th) are at home to bottom club Stockport, and 11th-placed Hoppers travel to Luctonians, who are two places and eight points below them.

We’ve still got a massive result in us. We have to keep improving our attacking play

Stockport are doomed, but only 12 points separate the sides from 10th to 15th, so, with four games left after this weekend, a lot can still happen in the battle to avoid being the other two relegated clubs.

Luctonians were up in ninth place at the end of October, but have been stuck in the bottom three since November – until winning their last two games to edge out of the relegation spots.

They have also won their last two home games.

Hoppers have won nine out of 25 across the campaign, but only three out of 12 away from Lightfoot Green.

They have lost their last two away fixtures – both by a frustrating three points. Their 18 bonus points are four more than Luctonians, whom they defeated 27-8 at Preston in November.

Oddly, last season‘s meetings were both won by the away team, Hoppers going down 10-7 at home after a 19-18 victory at Luctonians.

Head coach Garth Dew said: “We’ve still got a massive result in us. We have to keep improving our attacking play.

“I think there’s a big result coming from us in the next couple of weeks – hopefully against Luctonians.”

He felt they could have run in 40 points last Saturday rather than the 21-12 victory over Harrogate “if a couple more balls had gone to hand”.

Said Dew: “The Luctonians game is big one – we are still looking over our shoulder a bit at the clubs below us.

“If we win, we will create a nice cushion. If the pressure’s off, you’ll see us play a bit more rugby.”

John O’Donnell is unavailable this week, so Scott Jordan moves back to the wing and Mark Murray comes in at full-back, with Ollie Yeats replacing him on the bench.

The starting pack and other replacements are unchanged.

It is a weekend off for Vale of Lune in North One West.

Fylde’s penultimate home game brings National League One leaders Ealing Trailfinders to Ansdell.

The Londoners have topped the table since the third week of the campaign and now lead by nine points.

Since being relegated, Ealing have lost only twice all season and have won 10 on the road and all 13 at home, including a 56-15 demolition of Fylde in November.

Chris Briers’ suspension following last week’s sending off brings a shuffle in the backs, with Warren Spragg reverting to full-back, Jordan Dorrington switching to the wing and Ryan de la Harpe returning at scrum-half.

There are also two changes in the front row, with Dan Birchall at prop and Danny Maher hooking. Simon Griffiths moves back to the second row.

Hoppers: M Murray; Jordan, Russell, Woof, Baines; Allen, Kindred; McGuinness, Mills, Altham, Tomlinson, Banks, A Murray, Napier, Taylor. Replacements: Wilkinson, Madden, Morton, Lees, Yeats.

Fylde: Spragg; Dorrington S Rawlings, Dowds, Brennand; Johnson, de la Harpe; Birchall, Maher, Lewis, Griffiths, G Rawlings, Goodman, Vernon, Stewart. Replacements: Lavelle, Burtonwood, Arnold, Fairbrother, Nicholls.