Hoppers set for visit of the title favourites

Paul Arnold
Paul Arnold

The spirit is high within the Preston Grasshoppers’ camp despite the team opening the new season with two defeats out of three.

Last year’s runaway North Premier champions have certainly felt the step up in class since their return to National League Two North.

But Hoppers head coach Paul Arnold has seen enough from his men over the opening weeks of the campaign to suggest that they are more than capable of holding their own.

The two defeats at Chester, on the opening day, and away to Huddersfield last weekend were games which could – or rather should in terms of their trip to Yorkshire – have gone Hoppers’ way.

And sandwiched in 
between those results was a terrific win over derby rivals Fylde. Hoppers looked certain of victory against Huddersfield, but costly errors in the final few minutes saw them lose by a point.

“I have got no words for last weekend,” said Arnold. “We were devastated.

“We had the game sewn up, but one or two errors have effectively cost us.

“But we have been in every game so far. If we had been getting beaten easily, I would be panicking now and thinking what are we going to do.

“We could have beaten Chester, we beat Fylde and certainly should have beaten Huddersfield.”

Arnold believes his men have been handed a real baptism of fire in terms of their opening fixtures – and it does not get any easier this weekend with the division’s title favourites Sedgley Park heading to Lightfoot Green.

“I said to the lads after last weekend, the fixtures have not been kind to us at the start,” he said.

“Chester only lost two games at home last season. We were two divisions apart from Fylde last season and they will be up there no doubt this season, and Huddersfield only lost once at home last season.

“We have got Sedgley Park this weekend and they are probably the favourites to go up after reaching the final of the play-offs last season.

“There is a massive difference between the league we were in last season and this one. But the lads have been great.

“They are a really good bunch and they were all hurting after last weekend, but there has been a real focus in training this week and we are looking forward to this weekend.”

Hoppers are currently 10th in the table after picking up seven points and Arnold is hoping his team can get on the right side of the fine margins.

“We have got to beat those teams like Huddersfield if we want to try and get up the table,” he said.

“There are no easy games. I think the team who will end up winning it will lose four or five games. I don’t think it will be like last year when Sale won it losing only two games.”