‘Jekyll and Hyde’ shows for Hoppers

Players from Preston Grasshoppers contemplate defeat against Birmingham/Solihull
Players from Preston Grasshoppers contemplate defeat against Birmingham/Solihull
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A couple of weeks ago, Preston Grasshoppers fans were targeting back-to-back home games to put them in a good position heading into tough November fixtures.

But given Hoppers’ Jekyll and Hyde form, forecasting the outcome at home to Leicester Lions tomorrow has become as tricky as picking Lotto numbers.

Two games ago, Preston were sixth and Leicester 11th. Since then, Hoppers have dropped five places and the Lions are up four.

After last week’s dreadful 20-19 home defeat against under-strength strugglers Birmingham/Solihull, head coach Garth Dew eventually recovered from being “lost for words” to say with feeling: “We need to put this behind us. There is a lot of rugby left in the season.”

The video of last Saturday’s game will have made painful watching at training this week but everyone at Lightfoot Green will be looking for a vast improvement – and an end to a three-match losing streak.

Ollie Carter is out with the shoulder injury which forced him off early last Saturday, so Lewis Allen reverts to fly-half and Matt Gargett comes in on the wing.

Sam Russell is at centre after some good performances for the seconds and Sam Kindred is the starting scrum-half, with Sam Whyte on the bench.

Pete Altham comes in at prop for Dan Madden, who took a knock last week.

Lightfoot Green is set for a hectic weekend, with the near-unprecedented occurrence of all six Hoppers teams being at home.

The seconds take on Fylde tonight in the Bateman Premier League, while tomorrow the 3rd XV play Hoppers 4ths, Hoppers 5ths play the club’s 6th XV and Hoppers Ladies are at home to Altrincham Kersal in a Women’s Championship North fixture.

To cap it all, there is a Grand Former Players’ Reunion to mark the 145th anniversary of the founding of a club, which should be packed to the rafters after the games.

There is a tasty-looking derby in North One West when Vale of Lune head for Kendal in what could be another contrast of playing styles.

The Cumbrians suffered their first defeat in seven last Saturday but still top the table.

Kendal did the double last season, winning 39-29 at home and 22-10 at Powderhouse Lane.

Vale’s starting line-up depends on fitness checks on the Baines brothers, with Dan pencilled in to return at hooker and Alex in the back row. If the latter plays, Michael Barker will move up to lock. With Ian Bird injured, Rob Lamberton switches to centre and James Curran is on the wing.

Fylde seek a fourth successive victory in National League One when they make the trek to Darlington Mowden Park.

They are without Simon Griffiths, who injured his back in the warm-up last week, and winger Ollie Brennand, who is unavailable. Warren Spragg moves to the wing, with Richard Kenyon at full-back.

Hoppers: Embleton; Baines, Russell, Ward, Gargett; Allen, Kindred; Peterson, Mills, Altham, Tomlinson, Murray, Napier, Lees, Taylor. Replacemernts: Wilkinson, Irvine, Morton, Whyte, Hurst.

Vale: Weeks; Curran, Lamberton, Dorrington, Ball; Macluskie, Swarbrick; Hesketh, D Baines, Pillow, Charnley, Barker, A Baines, Garnett, Wallbank.

Fylde: Kenyon; Spragg, Briers, S Rawlings, Dorrington; Johnson, de la Harpe; Lewis, Burtonwood, Phillips, Arnold Robinson, Vernon, Stewart, Beaumont. Replacements: Wild, Maher, Goodman, Fairbrother.