Caldy vs. Preston Grasshoppers – KO 2.15pm
15. Sean Taylor 14. Matt Hughes, 13. Sean Long, 12. Jack Ward, 11. Phil Baines, 10. Graham Holroyd, 9. Mark Edwards 1. Chris Gale, 2. Alan Holmes 3. Richard Morton, 4. Ali Atkinson 5. Wayne Steel, 6. Matt Charters; Capt, 7. Killian Wallace, 8. Connor Murphy.
Replacements: 16. Alan Martindale 17. Andy Irving, 18. Alex Austin 19. Karl Fitzpatrick, 20. Matt Gargett.
The return of Sean Long after his impressive showing at Twickenham last Saturday for the Northern Hemisphere XV, and the 1st XV debut of former Hoppers Colt and Fylde regular Jack Ward, makes for a new pairing in the centres this Saturday. The only other changes to the starting line-up sees the return of Wayne Steel in the second row and Graham Holroyd at fly half.
Alex Austin and Karl Fitzpatrick drop to the bench while Russell Flynn gets a game against Caldy for the seconds at Lightfoot Green.
Matt Gargett takes his place on the bench after a number of impressive appearances in the Second XV, scoring a number of tries in the process. The inclusion of the former Fylde pair Ward and Gargett has been a while coming due to the form shown so far this season by Hoppers backs who have scored 35 tries in 15 games between them.
On the long term injury front, scrum halves Nathan Fowles and Josh Purnell are expected to be back in contention early in the new year.
Hoppers will be hoping to extend their run of away victories next Saturday with a third consecutive win on the road, and in so doing register their first double of the season. Paton Field has been a fairly successful venue for Hoppers since their first visit on the 6th of October 2007 when the visitors ran out 20 points to 16 winners. Coincidentally you have to go back to later that season to find the last time Hoppers won three consecutive matches on their travels, wins at Morley, Hull Ionians and Beverley being the venues.
Although Hoppers will be disappointed with last week’s home defeat at the hands of Huddersfield, comparing recent Luctonians results might give them encouragement for their trip to the Wirral. Though Caldy’s defeat last week at a reportedly weakened Luctonians was by a narrow margin, Huddersfield ran out comfortable winners there just two weeks prior to this.
Hoppers have played at Caldy just four times in the past, all in the last five seasons since their hosts were promoted at the end of 2005/6. Out of the four games at Paton Field honours are equal with two victories each, all but one meeting finishing with just four points between the two sides.
With both teams sitting in the top half of the table, and Caldy occupying the play-off place as things stand, everything points to another close encounter come Saturday afternoon.
Ex Hoppers scrum half James Smith will be hoping to make an appearance against his old club, although much of his game time since the move has been from the bench but the two tries he has scored in this time doubles his total from forty-one games at Hoppers.
Hoppers will be hoping to repeat the five-point victory gained on a rain soaked Lightfoot Green surface at the start of the season, when the home team ran out 27 points to 15 winners. Matt Hughes scoring a brace with Nathan Fowles and Sean Taylor being the other try scorers.
Other games being played at Lightfoot Green this coming Saturday with a 2.15 KO are:
Hoppers 2 vs. Caldy 2.
Hoppers 4 vs. Sedgley Park 3
Hoppers 5 vs. Fleetwood 3
Hoppers 6 vs. Carnforth 2
It isn’t too late for supporters wishing to travel to Caldy with the 1869 Club. The Coach is definitely running with a 10.30 start from the Clubhouse so please add your name to the list in the foyer. The cost is £10 with accompanied juniors travelling free of charge. A lunch stop at a country hostelry has been arranged, no doubt somewhere on the Wirral. Return as usual will be one hour after the final whistle.