Preston Grasshoppers vs. Chester – Kick Off 2.30pm
Head Coach Michael Lough’s first team selection for 2014 shows only slight differences from the team that travelled to Sedgley Park before the holiday break. Dominic Moon returns to his more familiar position at Number 8 and Ally Murray starts in the second row.
The backs remain relatively unchanged with just the return of Phil Baines replacing Sam Bedlow.
1 Mo Mustafa, 2 Alan Holmes, 3 Tom McGuinness, 4 Ally Murray, 5 Sam Wallbank, 6 Will Lees, 7 Eddie Webster, 8 Dominic Moon (Captain), 9 Sam Kindred, 10 Lewis Allen, 11 Anthony Elliott, 12 Jack Ward, 13 Phil Baines, 14 Adam Birchall, 15 Sean Taylor.
16 Oga Mabaya, 17 Jack Wilkinson, 18 Killian Wallace, 19 TBC, 20 Craig Aikman.
Chester are Preston Grasshoppers first opponents of 2014 and the home side will be hoping for a change of fortune after suffering four consecutive defeats, something that hasn’t happened since around about the same period last season when Hoppers went down to Otley, Stourbridge, Leicester Lions and Hull Ionians of which just one was played at Lightfoot Green. The home side will be hoping for a similar outcome as last season when they won the next seven games before losing at Caldy.
The Cheshire club are enjoying a successful first ever season in National 2 North and currently sit two places and thirteen points above Hoppers. The home side will be looking to avenge the defeat they suffered at Hare Lane back in September when the home side won by a somewhat flattering margin, the game being very close until Hoppers ran out of steam near the end of the game, Chester scoring three converted tries during the last ten minutes giving them a twenty six points to five victory.
Before this season the two teams last met in competitive action during Hoppers season in North 1 back on the 5th of February 2005 when a relatively comfortable away victory was achieved by twenty points to five completing the double that season for Hoppers. Since then a couple of pre-season ‘training’ fixtures have taken place, both at Chester’s ground with honours shared.
Competitive games between the two clubs go back to almost fifty years ago when the inaugural game took place at our Lea ground on the 23rd of October 1965 where Hoppers won by a single point in a game of thirty three. Since then there have been twenty four meetings between the two clubs with our opponents winning thirteen to eleven by ourselves.
Chester gained promotion from North 1 at the end of last season after the nearest of misses in the play off against Sheffield Tigers the previous year. The Cheshire outfit aren’t resting on their laurels either with a long list of comings and goings having taken place over the summer months.
Similar to the 1st XV, Hoppers Seconds will be in a hurry to get back into a winning groove after the unusual experience of losing two games on the trot. There’s and Hoppers other senior teams fixtures for the opening Saturday of the year are as follows;
Hoppers 2 vs. Caldy 2 (Away)
Hoppers 3 vs. Rochdale 2 (Home)
Hoppers 4 vs. Ashton-on-Mersey 2 (Home)
Hoppers 5 vs. Ormskirk 2 (Away)
Hoppers 6 vs. Vale of Lune 4 (Away)
Photograph courtesy of Michael Craig