Hoppers have to be wary of serial losers

Switch: Phil Baines moves to centre for Preston Grasshoppers
Switch: Phil Baines moves to centre for Preston Grasshoppers
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Following last week’s narrow squeak against lowly Stockport, Preston Grasshoppers will be taking nothing for granted when 13th-placed Bromsgrove visit Lightfoot Green tomorrow.

The Midlanders have won just twice and lost seven times to date and have a solitary victory – at Hull – in five away trips.

They have lost six in a row – the exact reversal of Hoppers’ fortunes, who have won their last six outings, including their last three home fixtures.

In all, Michael Lough’s men have won seven out of nine, and four out of five on home ground.

After fighting out a 31-31 draw at Bromsgrove last season, Hoppers won the return match 32-19 on their way to their third-place finish, while tomorrow’s visitors ended the season in eighth place.

With Sean Long unavailable, Karl Fitzpatrick takes over at fly-half, Phil Baines moves to centre and Matt Hughes comes in on the wing.

Regular rotation at prop sees Andrew Irving in the starting line-up, with Chris Gale on the bench. Will Kennan, Eddie Webster and Dominic Moon form this week’s back row.

Meanwhile, Vale of Lune seek a sixth successive home win in North One West when seventh-placed Widnes visit Powderhouse Lane.

Last week’s defeat at Sale – only their second in nine games this season – dropped Vale to second spot but they remain the top scorers in the league with 364 and have conceded only 134.

Widnes have won two on the trot, including their last away game, and have a match in hand of most of the other clubs. Of their five victories out of eight, two have come in their four away fixtures.

There’s a debut at No.8 for student Huw Marsden and a first home appearance by Nick Royle, who switches to centre to partner Sam Moorby.

Jordan Dorrington comes in on the wing, Andy Powers moves from the threequarters to hooker and Alex Cowey returns at prop.

Elsewhere in the pack, Andrew Garnett has a leg injury and Sam Wallbank is unavailable, while Lee Acton’s four-week ban expires on November 17.

The game kicks off at 2.15pm.

Victors in the last play of the day last weekend, Fylde now face a testing trip to Rosslyn Park, second in National One.

The Londoners have won seven, drawn one and lost just once – to leaders Ealing. At home, they have recorded four victories and a draw.

Fylde moved up to seventh last Saturday with their fifth win in nine games, but they have won just once in four away matches.

Warren Spragg comes in on the wing for Fylde, who shuffle their backs due to fly-half Scott Barrow’s toe injury.

Ollie Viney is at full-back, Chris Briers at centre and Chris Johnson at fly-half.

Having slipped to the next-to-bottom spot in National Three North with their fifth successive defeat last weekend, Kendal now host high-flying Chester, who top the attack and defence tables.

The second-placed Cheshire club have scored an impressive 385 while letting in just 151 in their eight victories and one defeat.

That lone setback came at Percy Park after an opening run of five victories.

Kendal have managed just two victories in nine games, both wins coming at home, where they have also lost three – including the last two at Mint Bridge.

Hoppers: Taylor; Bircgall, Baines, Ward, Hughes; Fitzpatrick, Kindred; Ieving, Mills, Madden, Gore, Steel, Keenan, Webster, Moon.

Vale: Hodder; Dorrington, Royle, Moorby, Curren; Moore, Wilson; Hesketh, Powers, A Cowey, Turton, Fellows, Tudor, Lin, Marsden.

Fylde: Viney; Spragg, C Briers, S Briers, Brennand; Johnson, de la Harpe; Birchall, Roddam, Lavelle, Arnold, Banks, Vernon, McGinnis, Stewart.