Preston Grasshoppers aiming for new high this season
Preston Grasshoppers have the chance to record four successive victories for the first time this season when fellow mid-table club Tynedale come to Lightfoot Green.
Hoppers have won three games on the trot only once before in this National League Two North campaign, but neighbours Fylde crushed their hopes of four-out-of-four in the pre-Christmas clash. Preston’s trip to Tynedale in November produced one of their season’s seven narrow defeats – going down 31-29 in a controversial finish – so revenge will be very much on their minds.
The visitors are seventh, two points ahead of Hoppers, with a game in hand of most rivals.
With another season at this level virtually guaranteed, head coach Paul Arnold takes the chance to rotate his squad.
Nathan Pope returns at full-back, with Matt Crow on the wing, Ryan Purcell props and Teddy Leatherbarrow is back at flanker after being on Scottish Under-20s duty last week.
Fylde, back down to fourth as they kicked their heels last Saturday while their rivals fulfilled rearranged games, are at home to 11th-placed Stourbridge.
Vale of Lune face another daunting challenge in the North Premier League when they travel to Harrogate, who defeated them 45-38 at Powderhouse Lane in November. It will be their first visit to Harrogate since 1992.
Next-to-bottom Vale are still seeking their first away victory, with just two draws and eight defeats on the road.
With only six games left, Vale are 10 points from safety and will be only too mindful that their last journey across the Pennines brought a 97-0 thumping by Hull.
They continue to pick up injury problems, too, with forwards Jack Ayrton (concussion) and Aiden Yates (shoulder) ruled out this weekend. In addition, Ruan Fourie has returned to his native South Africa.
In their provisional 18-strong squad, Vale add Jordan Fern to last week’s backs, while up front Joe Stephens,
Luke Ford and Harry Fellows are back in contention, although the latter needs a late check on a neck injury.
Hoppers: Pope; Spence, Hurst, Fitzpatrick, Crow; Davidson, Gough; Purcell, Millea, Altham, Howard, Murray, Carlson,Leatherbarrow, Lamprey. Replacements: Miller, Trippier, Procter, Stott, Jordan.
Vale (from): Ramwell, Hall, J Dorrington, Owens, Steele, Fern, B Dorrington, Swarbrick; Pillow, Powers, Stephens, Foxcroft, Fellows, Higgin, Ford, Wallbank, Kyle, Robinson.