Preston Grasshoppers vs. Westoe – Kick Off 2.30pm
It’s all very straightforward this week as far as team news is concerned. The selection committee have stayed with the same fifteen starters and bench as last Saturday’s selection at Huddersfield.
1. Mo Mustafa, 2. Phil Mills, 3. Andy Irving, 4. Gareth Gore, 5. Ali Murray, 6. Andy Napier, 7. Will Keenan,8. Dominic Moon. Captain, 9. Craig Aikman. 10. Lewis Allen,11. Adam Birchall, 12. Jack Ward, 13. Phil Baines, 14. Matt Hughes, 15. Sean Taylor.
Replacements: 16. Chris Gale, 17. Richard Morton,18. Eddie Webster, 19. Conor Murphy, 20. Josh Purnell.
Saturday’s fixture against Westoe is a rearranged game from a month ago when the intervening weather caused a cancellation. Hoppers will hope to add another ‘double’ to this season’s tally after a convincing win at bottom placed Huddersfield on their last outing where a Matt Hughes ‘hat trick’ took him to fifty points for the season.
All being well, Saturday will see Sean Taylor’s one hundredth game for Preston Grasshoppers during which time the youngster has scored three hundred and seventy four points for the club, a total which consists of forty tries and since taking over senior kicking duties earlier this season he’s added to his previous totals amassing fifty four conversions plus twenty one penalty kicks. It seems strange calling Sean a ‘youngster’ as there are so many players in the First Fifteen squad who are his junior, but at the age of just twenty one he remains a young man.
Sean arrived at Hoppers in 2009 from Tarleton Rugby Club after starting playing rugby at Southport He made his senior début ironically enough against Westoe at Wood Terrace in a thriller of a game when victory was clinched by a late Jordan Pearson try. A glance at his team mates that day shows just Matt Hughes, Dominic Moon and the ‘evergreen’ Rich Morton still playing for Hoppers Firsts this season.
Before making the full back berth his own he started his Hoppers career on the wing, but a change of position at the start of last season allowed him the space to exploit his vision for an opening and powerful running thus keeping his try scoring tally on the move.
As you will see from the match programmes this season, Sean is the Preston Grasshoppers Community Coach where his duties include sharing his knowledge with our mini and youth section plus an outreach programme in local schools as well as acting as a coach at UCLan where he obtained a degree in Sports Coaching. Everyone at Hoppers hopes to see Sean go on and score many more points for the club.
This season has seen our visitors struggle near the bottom end of the table and currently occupying the third from bottom place, nineteen points behind next placed Birmingham Solihull who sit in one of the safe spots. Since winning four games from five outings during October and November last year, the South Shields club have lost eight on the trot. Their visit to Lightfoot Green this week precedes a make or break period for Westoe with four consecutive games against teams from the bottom end of the table.
With just five relegation places to fill at the end of the season from National 2 North and South, Westoe will be hoping to escape the drop. This unusual situation has arisen due to the demise of Rugby Lions during the summer and the fact that National 2 South contains just fifteen teams. Due to the uneven numbers between both leagues and the fact that the northern section clubs will play two more games than their southern counterparts, the five relegation places will be determined on the percentage of points gained against the maximum amount attainable. The teams with the five lowest percentages will be the ones relegated, no matter whether they are from north or south. If there are clubs with the same percentages, the same formula will be given to the number of games won. If that doesn’t sort it out, it then gets rather complicated and this isn’t the place to go to great length about it. A full explanation can be found on the NCA website: http://www.ncarugby.org/index.php?pg=T SSE National League 2 North&league=SSE Nat League 2 North
Currently the ten following clubs are the main ones in danger of relegation;
Barking 7.00% Games Remaining 8
Huddersfield 17.00% Games Remaining 10
Westoe 21.00% Games Remaining 10
Stockport 21.00% Games Remaining 10
Southend 24.44% Games Remaining 10
Lydney 31.00% Games Remaining 8
Taunton Titans 32.22% Games Remaining 10
Bournemouth 32.63% Games Remaining 9
Birmingham Solihull 40.00% Games Remaining 10
Dudley Kingswinford 41.00% Games Remaining 10
League fixtures against this week’s opponents began relatively recently when the North East club gained promotion into the National Leagues from North 1 at the end of the 2008/9 season. In the six meetings since their promotion, Hoppers have won the first and last of four fixtures at Wood Lane, and both teams have a victory at Lightfoot Green.
Club fixtures between the two clubs go back to the 1975/6 season when Hoppers won at Lightfoot Green by thirteen points to four on the 11th of October and there has been a total of fourteen meetings, Hoppers leading the way with nine victories to Westoe’s four with one ending all square.
Plenty of action at Lightfoot Green this coming weekend while the Seconds have a free weekend, top of the table Hoppers Thirds entertain Sedgley Park’s Third fifteen while the Fourths play Southport Seconds and Hoppers Fifths have Rossendale Thirds for competition. Sunday sees our Women’s team play Liverpool Collegiate.
There are still some places available on the pre-match lunch. For just £16 you will be served a 3 course meal, receive a match programme and be admitted to the game. Lunch is served at 1pm with the bar being open from noon. To book your place contact the office on 01772 863546 before Thursday lunch time.