Hoppers have the finish line in sight

Preston Grasshoppers head coach Paul Arnold
Preston Grasshoppers head coach Paul Arnold

Preston Grasshoppers will be waiting with interest for the results of a couple of rearranged games as they enjoy another Saturday off in the North Premier League.

Their three closest challengers for the title are in action while Hoppers kick their heels – second-placed Harrogate make the short trip to Sandal, while third-placed Lymm host Hull, who are fourth.

Harrogate, with one game in hand, are 20 points behind Preston, while Lymm – also with a game in hand – and Hull, who have played two games fewer than Hoppers,are a further point back. Harrogate and Lymm are both among the last six fixtures facing Paul Arnold’s men, so there is still all to play for.

However Arnold believes his men – who battled past a spirited Pocklington side last weekend – have got the finishing line within sight.

“We are 20 points clear of second, who have a game in hand,” said Arnold.

“The teams below us have got to play each other and will drop points.

“We have just got to make sure that we keep on winning and let everybody else fight it out for second place.

“After this weekend, we have got two home games and if we win those then we should be in a great position.”

It is a similar situation at the top of North One West, where Vale of Lune lead Firwood Waterloo by eight points and Blackburn and Northwich by nine.

But Vale have several games in hand due to postponements, one of which was at Northwich in December; that clash is one of this weekend’s four rearranged fixtures and begins a run of three away games for the Lancaster club.

Fourth-placed Northwich have won 13 out of 18, while Vale have 14 victories and two defeats as they head to a ground where they have not won in five visits.

They will choose from a squad which sees Harry Fellows, Evan Stewart (back from suspension) and James Mawdsley added to last week’s rampant 18.

The clubs meet again at Powderhouse Lane in April.

Fylde, looking increasingly doomed in National League One, have the day off to reflect on their run of 10 successive defeats.

Vale (from): Briggs, Finan, Jacques, Higgin, Owens, Ramwell, Turton, Swarbrick; Ferguson, Powers, Pillow, Fellows, Rainforrd, Cvijanovic, Sadler, Ayrton, Stewart, Wallbank, Mawdsley.