Preston Grasshoppers vs. Darlington Mowden Park – KO 2.30pm
Hoppers have once again named an almost unchanged starting line the only exception being Phil Baines replacing Karl Fitzpatrick at outside centre who’s wing position last week is taken by prolific try scorer Matt Hughes who was unavailable for last weeks trip to Luctonians.
Andy Irving’s return to fitness sees him take a place on a strong looking bench of replacements with Brad Tuff being the other newcomer.
1 Dan Madden, 2 Phil Mills, 3 Mo Mustafa, 4 Alex Austin, 5 Sam Wallbank, 6 Will Lees, 7 Eddie Webster, 8 Dominic Moon (Captain), 9 Sam Kindred, 10 Lewis Allen, 11 Matt Hughes, 12 Jack Ward, 13 Phil Baines, 14 Adam Birchall, 15 Sean Taylor.
16 Andy Irving, 17 Brad Tuff, 18 Andy Napier, 19 Joab Murphy, 20 Craig Aikman.
Darlington Mowden Park who are Hoppers opponents this weekend will give the home team a stern test coming into the game on the fringes of the promotion and play off places after losing just one game so far this season, their only defeat being on the first Saturday away to current league leaders Macclesfield. However as seems to be the norm in recent weeks with our opponents, all six of Mowden Park’s victories have been over teams in the lower half of the table. In fact their last six games have been against the teams currently sitting in positions ten to fifteen in the sixteen team league.
After last Saturday’s hard earned victory at Luctonians (a first at Mortimer Park for Hoppers) on the back of a similar performance against Otley the week before, Hoppers season is beginning to have some momentum and they will be looking to build on an impressive ten out of ten home record stretching back to early February.
Fixtures between Hoppers and Darlington Mowden Park started comparatively recently in the 2002/3 season when the clubs met on three occasions with Mowden Park winning the two league matches plus a very close run cup tie by two points out of a total of seventy eight scored on the day. It wasn’t until the end of the 2004/5 season that Hoppers finally achieved a victory after six failed attempts with a sixty five points to thirty eight home win. There have been a total of fifteen matches between the two clubs with the North Eastern side having the upper hand with ten victories against just three by Hoppers plus two drawn games.
Last seasons meetings ended in comprehensive home victories for both teams but everything points to a much closer affair this time around.
Other home fixtures for Hoppers sides this Saturday will see the Thirds entertain Leigh Seconds and our Fourths, Eccles Threes’.
Photographs by Mike Forshaw