Head coach insists Preston Grasshoppers are “a long way from title success”

Preston Grasshoppers head coach Paul Arnold is not getting carried away
Preston Grasshoppers head coach Paul Arnold is not getting carried away

Little by little, block by block, Preston Grasshoppers appear to be edging ever closer to an immediate return to National League One North.

The men from Lightfoot Green have opened up a 17-point lead at the top of the North Premier with just 10 games of the season left to 
play.

From their opening 16 games, Hoppers have won 15 and drawn the other.

Their most recent victory came last Saturday away to Birkenhead Park, which followed a terrific win over title rivals Hull in the first game of 2018.

Armed with such a commanding lead at the top, many of the club’s supporters are scouring the remaining fixtures to see when Hoppers could possibly wrap up the title.

However, head coach Paul Arnold is having none of that, preferring to focus on the immediate future.

“I’m not looking that far ahead,” said Arnold said. “I am not going to start looking at the fixtures and think if we win there and they lose then, then we could win the league there.

“Mathematics is not my strongest point, so we will just carry on until someone tells me that we have won the league.

“We just have to keep going. We have had two good wins following the Christmas break. I split the season up into blocks of games and we have three games left in this block.

“After the win over Birkenhead, our focus moves on to the next game.”

Hoppers welcome derby rivals Kendal to Lightfoot Green this weekend and Arnold is expecting a tough game against the Cumbrians, who are in 
mid-table.

“We have a little derby against Kendal and they are a decent side,” said Arnold.

“They scored 30 points against Pocklington, who didn’t score, and that shows that their defence must be good.

“Teams are coming up against us with nothing to lose and not expecting to win.

“They can play with a bit of freedom and it puts added pressure on us because everybody is expecting us to win.

“That’s where we have to show that mental toughness.”

Hoppers will make a late choice from a 19-strong squad, with Alex Hurst added to those on duty last weekend.

Vale of Lune, still top of North One West, travel to 11th-placed Altrincham Kersal, whom they defeated 60-12 at Powderhouse Lane.

Fylde’s latest trip to the Home Counties in National League One takes them to Rosslyn Park

Hoppers (from): Jordan, Spence, Akrigg, Stott, Hurst, Fitzpatrick, Crosley, Ward, Squirrell; Mabaya, Millea, Altham, Arnold, Roddy, A Murray, Frings, Gale, Trippier, Lamprey.

Vale: J Dorrington; Jacques, Owens, B Dorrington, Hall; Turton, Swarbrick; Ferguson, Powers, Pillow, Fellows, Rainford, Ayrton, Stewart, Wallbank. Replacements: Yates, Cvijanovic, Finan.