Harrogate vs. Preston Grasshoppers– Kick Off 3.00pm
With Graham Holroyd still injured Hoppers one of Hoppers other Rugby League imports Sean Long gets his chance in the number 10 shirt. Still with the ex-Rugby League players, Karl Fitzpatrick returns to the starting line-up in the centres.
Other changes from last week include the return of Alan Holmes at Hooker. Phil Baines moves back to his more familiar Wing position with Anthony Elliott dropping to the bench. John Wells makes his first appearance in the second row since his return from Fylde and ‘Skipper’ Matt Charters replaces Kilian Wallace in the back row, who also drops to the bench.
The full line up is:
15. Sean Taylor, 14. Matt Gargett, 13. Karl Fitzpatrick, 12. Jack Ward, 11. Phil Baines, 10. Sean Long, 9. Nathan Fowles, 1. Chris Gale, 2. Alan Holmes, 3. Richard Morton, 4. Jon Wells, 5. Wayne Steel, 6. Will Keenan, 7. Matt Charters Capt. 8. Dominic Moon.
Replacements: 16. Anthony Elliott, 17. Mark Irving, 18. Phil Mills, 19. Kilian Wallace, 20. Josh Purnell.
Hoppers once again travel to visit our old rivals from Harrogate where the Yorkshiremen are one of our more regular opponents since league fixtures began back in 1987. Out of the seventeen matches played, Harrogate have won eleven to our four with another three being drawn including both games in the 2000/1 season. Having broken a long running sequence of defeats at home earlier in the season, Hoppers will be hoping to complete the double and record a victory at Claro Road for the first time since the one point victory in 2007/8. In fact this has been our only league victory at this particular place in West Yorkshire out of seven attempts.
Our hosts will be keen to take more league points off us as they are in the middle of the pack struggling to avoid relegation. This is unfamiliar territory for Harrogate as their only relegation since leagues began back in 1987, was from National 1 at the end of 2006/7. They’re making a spirited attempt to avoid the drop however with a win at Nuneaton before the narrowest of victories at Stockport and defeating the recently unbeaten Hull Ionians. Last Saturday their survival hopes took a turn for the worse after a defeat at fellow Yorkshiremen Otley, 25-21. This leaves Harrogate 1 point above the drop zone.
Since starting the season with a bang at Leicester Lions, 41-3 they had managed just four victories, all at home, until the recent resurgence. Hoppers thirty nine points to ten victory in October over Harrogate was our biggest ever winning margin, just bettering the thirty four to six point victory achieved in our first ever meeting in Preston back in 1955/56. No other Hoppers wins come close to these and Harrogate have handed out many a thrashing to Hoppers over the years.
A glance at the programme from Harrogate vs. Hoppers in January 1968 gives something of a clue as to why we were on the receiving end on many occasions. Whilst the Hoppers boasted such names as Brierley, Proctor, Threlfall, Blackhurst and playing in the number seven jersey Pete Ashcroft, our hosts names in the match programme were prefixed with a great number of stars and crosses denoting both County and International status, one I. R. Shackleton being amongst them. The result not surprisingly that day was at thirty one points to nil drubbing. Fortunately for the visitors, Jeff Young was otherwise engaged at Twickenham hoping to wear the Welsh shirt for the first time, something he did manage just two weeks later and on many occasions in later years together with a British Lions one for good measure.
With fixtures going back to the 1954/55 season the full record reads, Hoppers 8 wins against Harrogate 24 with five ending all square and seven being cancelled for various reasons. The sequence started back on the 23rd of October 1954 at Claro Road.
Other fixtures this weekend for Hoppers senior sides are as follows;
Stockport 2 vs Hoppers 2
Leigh 2 vs Hoppers 3
Hoppers 4 vs Kirby Lonsdale 2
Tarleton 2 vs Hoppers 5
Bolton 4 vs Hoppers 6