Tough task awaits in-form Preston Grasshoppers at Hull Ionians

Paul Arnold
Paul Arnold

Preston Grasshoppers are under no illusions about the task facing them tomorrow as they head for Hull Ionians.

The Humbersiders are locked in a National League Two North title battle with Chester, who are a single point behind, and will be smarting after suffering their only home defeat of the campaign against Sedgley Park three weeks ago.

Add into the mix the fact that one of Ionians’ only seven defeats in 26 games came at Lightfoot Green in December, by a resounding 29-7, and it is no wonder that Preston head coach Paul Arnold said: “They’ll want revenge and they’ll be fully up for it.

“But it’s good to be on a six-match winning run going to Hull. We want to finish the season strongly.”

Hoppers remain eighth in the table after 14 victories and 12 defeats and gave themselves a 10-point cushion over ninth-placed Hinckley by beating them comfortably last Saturday.

Arnold makes two changes this week, with James 
Fitzpatrick starting at centre and Ryan Purcell at prop. That means Sam Stott and Dan Madden dropping down to the bench.

Fylde’s hopes of being in the promotion mix took a hit with last week’s home defeat by second-placed Chester – Huddersfield pushed them back down to fourth on 
Saturday – but they will keep on battling at Wharfedale 
tomorrow.

The Dalesman are 10th after 13 victories out of 25, but have lost four out of 11 at home, including the visit of Chester three weeks ago.

Fylde have seven victories and five defeats on the road in an overall tally of 17 wins, one draw and eight defeats. They beat Wharfedale 20-17 at Ansdell in December.

Vale of Lune will be glad when their dismal and doomed North Premier League season comes to an end in three games’ time – with all three of those fixtures against clubs in the top seven.

Vale have lost their last six outings and in the last five have conceded an horrendous 343 points while scoring just 62. They remain next to bottom with 18 defeats, two draws and just three wins.

Tomorrow’s visitors are seventh-placed Rossendale, coached by old Vale favourite Mark Nelson. Rossendale won the first encounter 
26-0 and have a record of 11 victories, a draw and 11 
defeats, with just three 
successes in 11 away games.

With coach Dan Williams away for part of the week at a schools event, Vale have delayed selection but will definitely be without Harry Fellows (neck injury) and James Robinson (concussion). Fans will be hoping that a number of regulars who have been missing lately will be back on duty.

Hoppers: Jordan; Spence, Hurst, Fitzpatrick, Crow; T Davidson, Gough; Purcell, Millea, Altham, Howard, Procter, Murray, Carlson, Lamprey. Replacements: Madden, Miller, Tripper, W Davidson, Stott.