15. Sean Taylor 14. Matt Hughes, 13. Owen McKenna, 12. Russ Flynn, 11. Phil Baines, 10. Graham Holroyd, 9. Josh Purnell, 1. Andy Irvine, 2. Alan Martindale, 3. Chris Lowden, 4. Ali Atkinson 5. Alex Austin, 6. Matt Charters; Capt, 7. Killian Wallace, 8. Dominic Moon,
16. Mark Irving, 17. Richie Sands, 18. Ally Murray, 19. Andrew Thornley 20. Tom Smith.
One or two of last weeks starting XV received minor knocks and strains against Nuneaton but fortunately all have recovered and are in the selected squad for the trip to Hull this Saturday. The starting line-up shows just one changed with skipper Matt Charters returning after missing last weeks game. Ally Murray dropping to the bench.
Latest news from the treatment room is that long term casualties Karl Fitzpatrick and Nathan Fowles are only due to return early in December, but better news of the others is that Mark Philips should be available for selection against Stockport next Saturday and Mark Murray the following week for the Hull Ionians game.
John Peterson is still awaiting surgery and second row, Mark Rigbye is unavailable for selection at the moment due to work commitments
Last Saturday saw an unusual occurrence in that a quartet of players made the starting line up for the first time, a feat which Ally Murray celebrated with a late try. The others were the former Wigan RU pair of Killian Wallace and Alex Austin plus new recruit Josh Purnell who settled into the scrum half position very nicely showing a few bursts from the break downs as the game progressed and his confidence grew. All this shows the scope and depth of Hoppers squad this season compared to recent years. The club is certainly attracting good quality rugby players now that the coaching staff and rugby committee are firing on all cylinders in just their second season together. Further developments on the playing front this week points to an exciting future for Preston Grasshoppers, and a club players should be looking to join ranks with. It isn’t the finished article yet by any means, but is quickly going in the right direction.
Along with Matt Hughes topping the try-scoring league in National 2, his partner on the opposite wing, Phil Baines has reached joint tenth spot with seven tries. Hull is a happy hunting ground for the number eleven….so the Hull defenders will need to keep an eye on both these predators.
Next weekend sees the 1st XV travel to play Hull (the Ferens Ground variety, not the Ionians) for just the third time in Hoppers history and will be hoping to break their duck at that particular venue having lost on the previous two visits. They had better luck at the Hull outfit’s previous ground, Haworth Park, where they survived a late attempt at goal to come away with the spoils during the promotion season 2004/5.
The Humberside club’s form has seen a marked improvement over recent weeks after a very wobbly start to the season when they lost their first four games, albeit by narrow margins. They currently sit just four places and seven points below Hoppers in the league table with four wins so far and will no doubt make it very difficult for Hoppers to gain that elusive first victory at The Ferens.
The visitors will be boosted by the long awaited victory over a Nuneaton XV which keeps them in contention in the top third of the league, just seven points behind leaders Loughborough Students and six behind second placed Caldy. Hoppers can look at Hull’s last home victory over our visitors from last week Nuneaton by 34 points to 16 as a measuring stick against how they will have to perform this coming Saturday.
The fixture at Hull is the first of Hoppers two consecutive away fixtures, the second being no easier when they travel to our near neighbours Stockport.
As there are relatively few previous fixtures against this week’s opponents it’s a good time to take a step back in time and see who our opponents were around the same Saturday ten years ago. Unfortunately the nearest weekend saw us losing narrowly at home to Wharfedale by 23 points to our visitors 25 bringing the home team back down to earth after a rare, comfortable victory at Fylde two weeks earlier. Hoppers seemed to be heading for mid-table security at this stage, although, as many will remember, a disastrous second half of the season meant that this was to be our last at Level 3.
Some familiar faces are still to be seen at Lightfoot Green from that season including Mike Bailey, John Chesworth, Michael Lough, Dave Chadwick and Neil Ashton who in all clocked up a total of 1,400 games for Hoppers, some occasionally still pulling on the blue and white jersey. This was the season where Owen McKenna was in just his second term and Craig Steel had started to make appearances for the First Team together with our present Second Team Manager and stalwart Ade Jebb. Apart from relegation from National 1, this was also to be the start of Glyn Dewhurst’s sabbatical away from Hoppers at Esher before his return some four years later. Other regular names from that season still making regular visits to Lightfoot Green are Chris Glynn, Paul Bailey, Gary Monaghan, Pete Carter, Iain Bruce, Rob Parkinson, “PB” and “Shep” but I wonder what ever happened to Josh Williams, “Cash” and “The Huff”?
Sunday will see the Junior Colts at home to Wilmslow with a 2pm Kick Off time.
The next home game for the First XV is the week after another away fixture at Stockport, and is against Hull Ionians on the 19th of November with a 2.30 kick off time.
Link to ground directions if you are travelling by car to Hull: http://hullrugbyunion.co.uk/
I need to issue a correction after last week’s preview notes on the Nuneaton game. As I proudly showed the original team picture (which I had copied for the article) to Bert Shepherd, before I could open my mouth, he said “Oh that’s my elder brother holding the ball” Whoops!
Still it was a good shot of Les Anson and it nice to see Bob Bailey with hair!
Note to self: Must carry out research more thoroughly!!