Hoppers eye first double of season

Hoppers coach Garth Dew
Hoppers coach Garth Dew
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This is the first “reverse” fixture of the National League Two North campaign, Hoppers having beaten Sale 25-14 at Lightfoot Green in September.

The sides currently lie side by side in the table, both on 31 points, but Preston are a place higher, in 10th, with a game in hand of their Cheshire rivals.

Sale have won six out of 15, with five victories out of eight at Heywood Road. Hoppers have lost five out of eight away from home but have won two of their last three on the road.

The clubs’ scoring records make an interesting contrast, with Preston having the least productive attack in Two North, scoring just 248 points, whereas Sale have the worst defence, letting in 397 points.

Vale of Lune have another Saturday off in North One West, but it’s back to business in National League One for Fylde, who host Hartpury College.

Although Fylde won 34-32 at Hartpury last season, their only two other results against the students make painful reading – a 12-35 defeat at Ansdell last season and a very similar 12-39 loss in this season’s away game.

The College side have the best defence in the league, conceding just 229 points in their 11 victories and four defeats to lie third in the table. On the road, they have won four out of seven.

Fylde are ninth, following six wins, a draw and seven defeats. At home, they have lost four out of seven. In the absence of Christian Taylor, Alan Holmes starts at hooker for Hoppers, with Jack Wilkinson on the bench. Reece Tomlinson partners Ally Murray at lock, otherwise it is the same line-up that secured a splendid victory over Sedgley Park before Christmas.

With Nick Gray unavailable, Simon Griffiths partners Gareth Rawlings in the Fylde second row.

Head coach Paul Arnold provides cover on the bench.