Preston Grasshoppers coach Paul Arnold must put end to last-gasp agony

Action from Hoppers' trip to Otley last Saturday (photo: Mike Craig)
Action from Hoppers' trip to Otley last Saturday (photo: Mike Craig)

Desperate to end an agonising run of last-ditch defeats, Preston Grasshoppers head for Wharfedale this weekend to take on a side who are level with them on 11 points in National League Two North.

The Dalesmen are one place higher, in 11th, as they have won two out of five, compared with Hoppers’ one victory and four defeats.

With so many close finishes and four-try performances so far, Paul Arnold’s men have picked up a handy seven bonus points to Wharfedale’s three.

Last weekend they were beaten 28-25 at Otley, having led 25-7.

Hoppers’ starting line-up includes both their dual-registered Sale Sharks forwards, Rouban Birch and Teddy Leatherbarrow, while Alex Ward comes in at full-back for the injured Brad Cave.

The bench features two players new to the matchday 20 in Oxford Blue Noah Miller and summer signing Matt Crow, who has been unavailable so far following an operation.

Fylde suffered the same fate as Preston last Saturday, losing to the last play of the game against Sheffield Tigers, and slipped to fifth place after three victories and two defeats. Tomorrow, they are scheduled to visit Tynedale, who had to call off last week’s trip to Chester on medical 
advice because of a case of MRSA.

The North East side are still seeking their first win, 
having drawn one and lost three to be in 13th place with a game in hand of other teams in the lower reaches of Two North.

Vale of Lune were due a Saturday off in the North Premier League, but will host Kirkby Lonsdale after the original fixture had to be abandoned a couple of weeks ago due to an injury to a visiting player when the hosts were leading 
15-5.

Vale are still bottom of the pile after four straight defeats, while their near-neighbours are 11th, following two wins and two defeats.

In an interesting move, Vale play Jonty Higgin, usually a threequarter, in the back row, with Sam Wallbank moving up to lock. In other changes, Will Hunt starts at centre, Jack Turton plays fly-half and Mike Bradshaw returns at prop after a neck injury.

Hoppers: Ward; Trueman, Stott, Fitzpatrick, Spence; Davidson, Gough; Mabaya, Millea, Altham, Procter, Birch, Murray, Leatherbarrow, Lamprey. Replacements: Miller, Trippier, Edwards, Squirrell, Crow.

Vale: J Dorrington; Hall, Owens, Hunt, Jacques; Turton, Swarbrick; Bradshaw, Powers, Pillow, Wallbank, Fellows, Higgin, Robinson, Ayrton. Replacements: Tagg, Crookall, Briggs.