Hoppers braced for top-of-table clash

After a weekend off, club rugby gets back to business tomorrow with a tasty top-two clash for Preston Grasshoppers in the North Premier League.

Lymm, first-time visitors to Lightfoot Green in the league, have an identical record to Hoppers of nine victories and one draw this season, but sit in second place having picked up two fewer bonus points.

However, the Cheshire side have run in 22 more points than Hoppers and conceded 71 fewer.

Lymm’s draw came at Kendal five weeks ago, while Hoppers last failed to pick up all five points at Hull in mid-September.

Head coach Paul Arnold’s red card from a couple of weeks ago has been rescinded by the disciplinary panel so he is free to join a Hoppers squad from which a late selection will be made.

It includes forward Sam Gale and back Scott Jordan, who missed the last game.

“It’s the big one tomorrow against Lymm,” said Arnold.

“We both have identical records this season, but we have picked up two extra bonus points.

“It’s an important game. Only one team goes automatically up and the team in second goes into a play-off.

“We want to make sure that we are in that top position by the end of April.

Vale of Lune, still leading North One West – and with a game in hand – head to Rochdale, who are next to bottom after two wins and eight defeats.

Vale’s eight-match season-long winning run came to an end last time out, when Douglas made a successful raid from the Isle of Man.

Centre Ben Dorrington, prop Ross Pillow and influential flanker Evan Stewart are back for Vale, as is lock Al Crookall after a year in Australia.

Fylde remain bottom of National League One as they travel south for a game against 10th-placed Esher. The Londoners have won four out of 11, while Fylde have two victories and nine defeats, and are 10 points from safety.

Hopper (from): Jordan, Spence, Trueman, Hurst, Stott, Fitzpatrick, Crosley, Ward, Squirrell; Mabaya, Madden, Millea, Altham, Arnold, Roddy, A Murray, Granby, Trippier, Gale, Lamprey.

Vale: J Dorrington; Hall, B Dorrington, Owens, Jacques; Finan, Swarbrick; Cowey, Powers, Pillow, Fellows, Crookall, Ayrton, Stewart, S Wallbank. Replacements (from): Stevens, Rainford, Cvijanovic, Ramwell, Higgin.