Preston Grasshoppers have a mountain to climb

While the top two in National Two North battle it out when leaders Caldy visit Fylde tomorrow, there is a vast gulf between the sides which meet in the same league just down the road at Lightfoot Green.

Friday, 14th February 2020, 6:00 am
Oli Trippier (photo: Mike Craig)

Next-to-bottom Preston Grasshoppers have not won at home since October 26.

Visitors Hinckley are on a run of seven successive victories which have taken them up to fourth place.

Paul Arnold’s men have now gone five games without a win – four defeats and a draw – and, a full 20 points from safety, are almost resigned to relegation.

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It has been a horrid season for injuries, exemplified by last week’s loss of both hookers – starter Chris Taylor and replacement Ollie Trippier – necessitating uncontested scrums and their consequent reduction to 14 men for the rest of the game.

The recurrence of Taylor’s hamstring injury keeps him out of tomorrow’s squad but Trippier is in the 22 from whom the line-up will be chosen. Another front-row forward, Noah Miller, makes a timely return from injury and Rob Meadows is also added to last week’s forwards.

In the backs, Nick Gregson is ruled out, but student Will Clapham is named in the squad for the first time. A full-back, he was formerly part of the Cardiff Blues Academy.

Hoppers will no doubt be happy to get tomorrow’s fixture out of the way before, like Vale and Fylde, enjoying a Saturday off next weekend to continue regrouping.

Pretty well stuck in 10th place in North One West, Vale of Lune travel to Penrith, one place and six points above them, but with a game in hand.

Prop Vittorio Bianchi is back in his native Italy, so Owen Branford comes into the front row. Scott Manning returns at full-back allowing Ryan Busby to revert to the wing. Henry Hiigginson is at centre, with Andy Powers switching back to hooker, and Tom Cvijanvic moves to lock to accommodate the return of James Robinson in the back row.

Hoppers (from): Spence, J Dorrington, Jordan, Clapham, Trueman, W Davidson, Stott, Browne, Prior, Squirrell; Mabaya, Miller, Trippier, Sloane, Blanchard, Howard, Murray, Carlson, Naylor, Meadows, Harrison, B Dorrington.

Vale: Manning; Fern, Higginson, Kyle, Busby; Finan, Briggs; Branford, Powers, Pillow, Cvijanovic, Fellows, Snell, Ayrton, Robinson. Replacements (from): Dokter, Tagg, Ford, Crookall.