Exclusive Gareth Dyer Preston Grasshoppers column: On course to reach a 60-point safety target

Action from last Saturday's 29-7 win over leaders Hull Ionians (photo: Mike Craig)
Action from last Saturday's 29-7 win over leaders Hull Ionians (photo: Mike Craig)

Gareth Dyer is Preston Grasshoppers’ head of rugby operations

In my last column earlier in the season, I spoke about us being happy about our points return after a tough opening month to the season.

A couple of months later and my feelings are similar with us now having accumulated 35 league points from the 13 games played to date to sit ninth in the table at the time of writing.

Dig a little deeper into our return to date and there is the usual mixture of the pleasing and frustrating elements but overall a feeling that we are on track to achieve our minimum aim for the season.

I’ve probably bored everyone to death about talking about getting to 60 league points and then taking our season from there.

Accumulating 60 points in National 2 North has in every season over the last 10 years bar one, been enough to guarantee your status for another season.

That may be tested this season given that we are playing in one of the most competitive seasons at National 2 that I can remember.

Nine points separates us from Huddersfield, who currently sit third, whilst 10 points is the current buffer we have above South Leicester who currently sit 14th and in the last of the three relegation places.

In effect, a couple of consecutive wins or losses and you are either looking up at the top of the table or feeling the breath on your neck from the teams below.

Our home form has been strong with five wins and a frustratingly close defeat from just six home games played to date.

Away from home the frustration has been more apparent. We are yet to record a win on our travels as we head to Stourbridge this coming weekend. However, we have taken 10 bonus points from our trips away from Lightfoot Green but know this return should have been somewhat higher.

Four very late defeats, two to last plays at Huddersfield and Otley, have meant we have coughed up 12 points that we should have banked.

It is important in a league as tight as this that you try to take something from every game in terms of league points. That we have managed to take something from all bar one game is another pleasing aspect to our season to date.

Bonus points are a strange thing at times. You receive them for scoring four tries or more in a game or by losing by seven points or fewer. I’ve always thought that it can have a distortion effect about a team’s true competitiveness.

For instance, a team could be pumped and concede 50 or more points but if they score four tries in a heavy defeat they still come away with something.

However, you can play a tight game and be pummelling away on 79 minutes for a winning try only to concede a late score yourself to lose by eight and you get nothing for your afternoon’s endeavours.

Personally, I think a four-try bonus point in defeat should still only be awarded if you are still within relative touching distance of your opponents come the final whistle.

After the next couple of games, we will have played every team once and we then have the local derby at Fylde before the Christmas break.

By the time we have played at Fylde we will have played nine away games and only seven at home. Of those nine away from home, we will have played all but two of the current top 10 away from home.

In the New Year it will leave us with eight home games and only six away from Lightfoot Green.

Last weekend was our best performance of the season to date.

League leaders Hull Ionians were dispatched in a sparkling try bonus-point win in wet and windy conditions at Lightfoot Green.

It is to be hoped that the performance level we achieved last weekend is something we can now see on a consistent basis.

The pack went well again but I was really happy with how hard we worked off the ball. The half-backs James Gough and Tom Davidson gave us direction whilst the older heads in the team set the tone for our display by emptying their tanks to ensure we maintained a high intensity throughout.

With long-term injured players starting to return to training, a couple of new additions joining the ranks and the players who joined us in the summer starting to feel at home, then I am hopeful that we can now kick on and start to put some back to back results on the board.

Our home form will be vitally important throughout the season with a lot of good teams coming to us in the new year.

There is an opportunity to do well this season, but we cannot afford to get ahead of ourselves. I will feel a lot more comfortable when we have secured another 25 points