Hoppers happy to take it to the wire

Richard Morton
Richard Morton
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Preston Grasshoppers head south in search of a fourth successive away win in National League Two North tomorrow – with a growing reputation for keeping the fans on edge right up to the final whistle.

Their last two games have both gone down to the wire, Hoppers coming from behind with the final play of the afternoon to steal victory.

The travelling support will be hoping for a less nerve-racking outcome at Herefordshire club Luctonians, who are three places below them in eighth.

The Leominster-based side have won five and lost five, with seven bonus points but have been defeated in their last three outings.

One of those defeats was their only reverse at home in four games this season.

Hoppers have won three out of four on the road and eight out of 10 in all, collecting nine bonus points. They seek their eighth straight win tomorrow.

Both games went with home advantage last year, Luctonians winning 22-15 at home before crashing 49-5 at Lightfoot Green. They ended the campaign in fifth place, two behind Preston.

Sean Long is again unavailable for Hoppers, so the back division is unchanged.

Ali Murray replaces the unavailable Gareth Gore at lock and Rich Morton returns at prop.

Fylde, who have won their last three home games in National One, host Macclesfield, who won their last away fixture, at Tynedale – their first victory on the road in four attempts.

Macc lie 15th, with just two wins out of eight and five bonus points.

They have the worst defence in the league, conceding 325, and the second-worst attack, scoring just 200 points.

Fylde’s defeat at leaders Rosslyn Park last week dropped them to eighth with a record of five victories and five losses; at home they have won four out of five.

They beat Macclesfield twice last season, 48-23 at home and 39-24 away, en route to finishing two places above them in fourth.

With Alex Loney and Steve McGinnis returning to school duties, Fylde have Tom Lavelle at prop and Danny Maher in the back row.

It’s all change in the back line, with Ben Rath replacing Warren Spragg, whom was unable to train, on the wing, Scott Barrow at centre for the injured Stephen Briers, and Richard Kenyon and Martin Wallwork resuming their half-back partnership.

There is no action in National Three North this weekend, which means a Saturday off for Kendal.

And the only fixtures in North One West are rearranged dates for games postponed earlier in the campaign.

But Vale of Lune cannot stage the clash with Widnes – postponed from last Saturday – because their opponents have a previously rescheduled fixture at Fleetwood.

And alternative plans for Vale to travel to Wigan for a Lancashire Trophy tie are also frustrated by the Wiganers having to play a rearranged league game.

Hoppers: Taylor; Hughes, Baines, Ward, Birchall; Fitzpatrick, Kindred; Irving, Mills, Morton, Murray, Steel, Murphy, Webster, Moon.

Fylde: Viney; Rath, C Briers, Barrow, Brennand; Kenyon, Wallwork; Birchall, Roddam, Lavelle, Arnold, Banks, Maher, Vernon, Stewart.