Preston Grasshoppers head coach Paul Arnold admits the North Premier league title is his team’s to lose after they opened up a huge gap at the top.
The crushing 87-7 rout of derby rivals Kendal at the weekend saw Hoppers go 22 points clear of both Hull and Lymm, who were due to play each other on Saturday but that game was postponed.
While guarding against the risk of complacency, Arnold has challenged his men to go the season unbeaten.
They have currently won 16 and drawn one of 17 games and have nine left to play, starting with a trip to Kirby Lonsdale this weekend.
“I think it’s definitely ours to lose,” said Arnold, who declared his side’s 13-try win over Kendal as their most complete performance of the season.
“If Lymm and Hull win their games in hand, the lead could be cut to 12 points, but that’s still 12 points – three four-point wins.
“We will still be pretty comfortable, but it’s important that we don’t let complacency set in and we have a tough game at Kirby Lonsdale this weekend.
“That’s one of our goals – to keep this run going as long as we can.
“It’s achievable to finish the season unbeaten but it’s going to be a big ask.
“Not many teams have done it although I think Huddersfield did it last year.”
Arnold will have the memory of Kirby Lonsdale’s visit to Lightfoot Green in October in his mind. It needed a late penalty try for pulling down a driving maul to see Hoppers over the line, 27-26, following a comeback from 15-6 down by the visitors.
With Alex Hurst unavailable, Sam Stott starts at centre and Jack Akrigg comes onto the bench.
In North One West, leaders Vale of Lune welcome Firwood Waterloo to Powderhouse Lane.
Vale name the same starting line-up as last Saturday, with Chris Ramwell on the wing in place of Damon Hall, who broke his jaw in training last week.
Former Hopper James Mawdsley and ex-Macclesfield forward Jack Sadler are among the replacements. Rock-bottom Fylde host Ampthill in the National League.
Hoppers: Jordan; Spence, Fitzpatrick, Stott, Crosley; Ward, Squirrell; Mabaya, Millea, Altham, Arnold, Roddy, A Murray, Frings, Lamprey. Replacements: Gale, Trippier, Akrigg.
Vale: J Dorrington; Jacques, Owens, B Dorrington, Ramwell; Turton, Swarbrick; Ferguson, Powers, Pillow, Fellows, Rainford, Ayrton, Stewar, Wallbank. Replacements: Mawdsley, Sadler, Finan.