Old rivals Hoppers and Fylde set to do battle once more

Hoppers head coach Paul Arnold
Hoppers head coach Paul Arnold

There will be a packed house at Lightfoot Green tomorrow when Preston Grasshoppers welcome neighbours Fylde for the clubs’ first league clash in eight seasons.

The old rivals have met in several cup games and charity matches since 2010/11, but there is an extra buzz about Hoppers’ first National League Two North home fixture of the new campaign.

When they last met in league action, Fylde did the double, winning 48-17 at Ansdell and 27-20 at Preston.

Neither side had it easy on the opening day of this season. Fylde raced to a big lead at home to Otley, before having their backs to the wall in the second half to hang on for a bonus-point victory, while Hoppers hit back strongly after early setbacks at Chester but had to settle for just a four-try bonus point.

Of course, many players have represented both clubs over the years and it’s a tradition now extended to Hoppers head coach Paul Arnold, who is at the start of his second season in the role at Lightfoot Green after being player-coach at Ansdell.

Arnold again starts on the bench tomorrow in a squad which is the same as last week’s 20, given that half-a-dozen players are still on the injury list.

But Ally Murray switches to flanker, with Luke Procter taking over in the second row and Jack Edwards moving to the bench.

Fylde hope to have fly-half Greg Smith back after missing the opening day and will make a late check on new flanker Ben O’Ryan, who went off last week with a leg injury.

Vale of Lune’s first home game in the North Premier League revives memories of the final fixture of last season.

Vale were already sure of going up when they travelled to Wilmslow, but the hosts needed a win to clinch the runners-up spot and a promotion play-off game.

They duly won 37-20 and went on to victory in the play-off to join Vale in the higher league. Vale had beaten them 41-17 at home earlier in the campaign.

The Lancaster side had a disastrous start to North Premier life last Saturday, crashing 12-92 at Blaydon, while Wilmslow lost 21-24 at home to Kirkby Lonsdale.

In light of last week’s crushing defeat – when Vale were lacking many of their regular backs – they have delayed selection. If Smith plays, Chris Briers will move to centre. Ben Gregory, Ollie Parkinson and Harlan Corrie are expected to start in the pack.

Hoppers: Jordan; Trueman, Stott, Fitzpatrick, Spence; Davidson, Gough; Mabaya, Millea, Altham, Howard, Procter, Murray, Trippier, Lamprey. Replacements: Wilkinson, Johnson, Arnold, Edwards, Ward.

Fylde (probable): Carleton; Hadfield, Briers, Wilkinson, Grimes; Smith, Crampton; Horner, Gregory, Lewis, Garrod, Parkinson, Corrie, Vernon, Fairbrother.