Preston Grasshoppers aiming to give Arnold a perfect farewell

With three of their final four games against teams in the bottom half of the North Premier League, Preston Grasshoppers could hardly have a better chance of giving a promotion-winning send-off to retiring head coach Paul Arnold.

By The Newsroom
Friday, 25th March 2022, 8:00 am

Seven points clear of third-placed Blackburn and only three behind leaders Otley, they start the run-in to the end of the campaign with a visit from Wirral, who are ninth.

Hoppers are seeking an 11th successive victory. They have won 10 out of 11 at Lightfoot Green and overall have 19 victories, one draw and two defeats.

Wirral, who lost 17-14 at home to Hoppers, have won 10 out of 21, but only three out of 10 on the road.

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Paul Arnold (centre) is stepping down at the end of the season (photo: MIke Craig)

The only upset to the hosts’ preparations, after a Saturday off last week, is that they have to make a number of late fitness checks.

So Arnold has named a squad of 23, which contains most of the familiar faces but also includes back-row forward Will Fryer.

In North One West, Vale of Lune head to Wilmslow, whom they defeated 29-22 at Powderhouse Lane.

The clubs are side by side in mid-table, with Vale one place higher in ninth, mostly thanks to their extra bonus points.

Wilmslow have actually won one more game – eight out of 21 – but have just 10 bonus points to Vale’s 16. However, Vale have lost their last four outings, whereas tomorrow’s hosts have won their last two.

The visitors welcome back Ollie Jacques and Damon Hall in the threequarters and Harry Fellows at lock but are without back-row stalwart Sam Wallbank, who is unavailable.

Fylde dropped back to fourth in National League Two North last week as they enjoyed a Saturday off while their rivals caught up on postponed fixtures.

Tomorrow, they travel to Hull Ionians, who are sixth but 20 points behind them, and lost 28-12 at Ansdell. The I’s have won eight out of 11 at home in an overall total of 13 victories, two draws and nine defeats. Fylde, seeking a fourth successive win, have lost just five out of 24 and have won their last four away from home.

Fylde are now 12 points behind the other Hull club and six behind Sedgley Park, but that could all change this weekend when the top two title rivals play each other.

Hoppers (from): Trippier, Mabaya, Taylor, Holden, Altham, Murray, Norrington, Gale, Bramhall, Harrison, Fryer, Lamprey; Moulding, Squirrell, Pearson, Spence, Stott, J Dorrington, Clapham, Browne, B Dorrington,Leatham, Taylorson.

Vale: Ramwell: Cross, Jacques, Briggs, Hall; Finan, Swarbrick; Branford, Stephens, Mount, Tagg, Fellows, Nicholson, Lane, Ayrton. Replacements: Griffiths, Fern, Wills.