With their fate now confirmed after losing in catastrophic style in their last home game against Harrogate, Hoppers head for Cheshire this Saturday where play-off side Sale await.
By Mike Forshaw.
It may be some time before both sides meet once again for surely if the Heywood Road side miss out on promotion this season, their efforts will be doubled next term and even if Hoppers were to bounce straight back, Sale might well be heading for the Championship by then.
Sale’s climb up the leagues has seen them moving into National 2 North as Champions of National 3 North a couple of seasons ago and with the Cheshire side’s close links with break-away Premiership side Sale Sharks they’ll be hoping to proceed with their climb up the National Leagues with the Championship at Level 2 no doubt being their ultimate aim.
It seems very strange that a side who’s safety in National 2 North at this time last season was far from safe, now hold a twenty point lead over their nearest rivals and have a play-off game for promotion already set for the 6th of May.
Their opponents that day are still to be confirmed as there are two contenders currently separated by the fact that Old Elthamians have won one more game than rivals Chinnor. Another thing which is also to be sorted is which side will have home advantage. This is decided in the first instance by which of the two play-off contestants has lost the least games before the number of drawn fixtures comes into force and finally the best points difference. As things stand with two games remaining, Sale would have home advantage.
Fixtures between Preston Grasshoppers and Sale have been few and far between, but there can’t be many present day clubs who can still boast fixtures against each other for well over one hundred years. Together with ourselves, Sale F.C. are one of three clubs in our league who were formed during the 1860’s, the other being Otley from 1868 with our last opponents from Harrogate born shortly afterwards in 1871 and just Tynedale & Stourbridge (1876), and Hinckley (1892) who can trace their roots back to the 19th Century.
Earlier this season Sale comfortably defeated Hoppers on Pitch 2 after Hoppers won the opening home game of last season against the league newcomers before drawing a game they should have comfortably won at Heywood Road later in the season. Prior to last season’s League meetings a pre-season practice game at Lightfoot Green in 2013 was our last fixture with the Cheshire outfit. Going back further there was a Good Friday game at the Sale ground back in 1991 when the home team handed out a bit of a thrashing, thirty points to four and although fixtures between the two clubs have been few and far between, they go a long way back with the first meeting being played at West Cliff on the 1st of November 1884 when the home side ran out winners.
In all Hoppers 1st XV and Sale/Sale ‘A’ have faced each other in sixteen fixtures with the Cheshire side winning on six occasions to Preston Grasshoppers nine plus last term’s drawn game. There have been three pre-season practice games recently with Sale & Sale Jets who have the advantage two to one and over the years there have been three cancelled fixtures.