Dudley Kingswinford vs. Preston Grasshoppers – Kick Off 3.00pm
A notable milestone will be made on Saturday as Rich Morton takes to the field. It will be Richard’s 150th League match for Hoppers, but more about this in next weeks programme for the Huddersfield game.
As for the squad travelling to the Midlands on Saturday there are two notable absentees as Skipper Dominic Moon and Sean Long take a week off to let niggling injuries recover, Conor Murphy moves to his more usual roll to cover the missing Captain, Wayne Steel taking over the Leader’s role. Squad rotation takes place with props Richard Morton and Andy Irving, Phil Mills starts in the absence of Alan Holmes.
Matt Hughes isn’t available so Anthony Elliott takes his place with Phil Baines switching into the centres Matt Gargett taking his wing spot and Karl Fitzpatrick returns to replace Sean Long at stand off. ‘Fitz’ will be hoping for a more successful weekend after coming away from Old Trafford last Saturday night empty handed!
The bench sees both Allen Martindale and Will Keenan return.
1. Chris Gale, 2. Phil Mills, 3. Richard Morton, 4. Gareth Gore, 5. Wayne Steel Captain. 6. Killian Wallace, 7. Eddie Webster, 8. Conor Murphy, 9. Sam Kindred. 10. Karl Fitzpatrick, 11. Matt Gargett, 12. Jack Ward, 13. Phil Baines, 14. Anthony Elliott, 15. Sean Taylor.
Replacements: 16. Andy Irving, 17. Allen Martindale, 18. Alex Austin, 19. Will Keenan, 20. Josh Purnell.
Having scored 31 tries so far this season in just six outings and lying second behind Stourbridge who have score seven more, the Hoppers try scoring machine rolls on to the Midlands this coming Saturday. A trip to Heathbrook in the Black Country is on the agenda where Dudley Kingswinford are the hosts.
A creditable victory over Birmingham Solihull last weekend who successfully played the officials throughout the game ensured Hoppers struggled to maintain their usual fluency. That together with a possible over confidence after the comfortable victories of recent weeks which will have now been flushed out of the system putting minds back in focus.
Since taking over the kicking duties from Sean Long a few weeks ago, another rather more youthful Sean has made his mark in the Individual League Tables. Young Mr Taylor proudly sits in joint second place with six tries and third in the total points table on sixty six just fourteen behind leader Richard Vasey of Caldy who has eighty.
Hoppers have made just a couple of visits to this splendid 1963 set up which from memory also sits in pleasant surroundings, but have a ‘nil victories’ record to set straight. Both our games there were tight affairs, Hoppers losing by four points in 2002/3 when even a rare ‘Chaddy’ try couldn’t save them then by just two points the following season after which Hoppers suffered relegation to North 1. The first meetings between Hoppers and DK took place in back to back fixtures, the scheduled fixture at Lightfoot Green in early January being a casualty of the weather. I don’t think this has happened before or since, but no doubt someone will tell me different!
I wonder if we’ll see the same referee from the October 2003 fixture this weekend? One Brendan Fitzmaurice officiating on that occasion. There are a few notable Hoppers individuals from those two encounters at Heathbrook. Current coaches Michael Lough and John Young along with our Rugby Chairman ‘Bill’ Bailey played in the second game and we still have a couple of playing survivors from the first occasion in the not inconsiderable shapes of Rich Morton and Russ Flynn.
A look at the Club’s competing in National Three North (as Level 4 was then) during the 2002/3 season and comparing this seasons participants shows just two other survivors from ten seasons ago in the shape of Hull Ionians and Darlington Mowden Park. It’s a case of “where are they now” for some of the others such as New Brighton, Bedford Athletic, Liverpool St Helens, Halifax and Scunthorpe. Waterloo and Nuneaton were heading for promotion only to find themselves competing at the level below us today. New Brighton and Halifax stood in third and fourth positions most probably as a result of spending money they couldn’t afford whilst Tynedale and Blaydon awaited their turn of promotion.
Dudley Kingswinford were promoted from Midlands 1 at the end of last season by means of a narrow home victory over Rossendale in the National 3 play off game. Their return to National 2 has been a case of acclimatisation with just one victory recorded from six games although it has to be said that all their defeats have been at the hands of teams in the top half of the table so they certainly won’t be any push over.
After a blank weekend for our 2nd, 5th and 6th XV’s last week, everyone will be hoping for dry week weather wise. Games scheduled for Lightfoot Green this coming weekend which kick off at 3pm:
Hoppers 2nd’s vs. Stockport 2
Hoppers 3rd’s vs. De La Salle 2
Hoppers 4th’s vs. Rochdale 3
Sunday will see our Junior Colts entertain Wirral kicking off at 2pm.