Sedgley Park vs Preston Grasshoppers
Head Coach Michael Lough shuffles the team selection once again for the short trip to Prestwich to face in-form Sedgley Park and Will Lees and Eddie Webster start the game this week, skipper Dominic Moon moves to the second row and Andy Napier takes the Number Eight spot.
The backs remain relatively unchanged with just the return of Sam Bedlow replacing Karl Fitzpatrick.
1 Mo Mustafa, 2 Alan Holmes, 3 Tom McGuinness, 4 Dominic Moon (Captain), 5 Sam Wallbank, 6 Will Lees, 7 Eddie Webster, 8 Andy Napier, 9 Sam Kindred, 10 Lewis Allen, 11 Anthony Elliott, 12 Jack Ward, 13 Sam Bedlow, 14 Adam Birchall, 15 Sean Taylor.
16 Oga Mabaya, 17 Jack Wilkinson, 18 Killian Wallace, 19 Phil Baines, 20 Craig Aikman.
Hoppers face another tough assignment this week when they take to the road once again, this time for their shortest away league journey of the season to Park Lane the home of Sedgley Park or Tigers as they like to be named these days.
Sedgley will be all out to avenge the narrow defeat they suffered at Lightfoot Green at the start of the season on a day when Hoppers put in their best performance of the season so far.
The home side are on a run of eight games without defeat and have lost just once since the reverse at Lightfoot Green and that was at the hands of top team Macclesfield.
Although Hoppers were defeated at league leaders Macclesfield last Saturday, they will take heart from the performance of a depleted squad not helped by the cards gathered on the day.
Encounters with our visitors from Whitefield, Manchester commenced just about ten years after our move from Lea to Fulwood with an away game and victory by twelve points to six. Sedgley had stepped into a vacant Easter Saturday fixture date on the 2nd of April 1983 after Blackburn had pulled out and the event started a short run of fixtures for just three years all of which were won by Hoppers.
The next time the two clubs met was in a League fixture at Park Lane back in 1997 when Hoppers continued their winning ways with a narrow twenty points to sixteen victory. Hoppers went on to complete the double that season and it wasn’t until we played a Lancashire Cup tie at Lightfoot Green during the 2000/2001 season that ‘Park achieved a victory over Preston Grasshoppers something that was repeated in league form at the double during the following season when Hoppers were relegated from National 1. Sedgley Park however remained at Level 3 and apart from a number of Lancashire Cup ties and a pre-season fixture a couple of years ago, the two teams haven’t met when league points are at stake since.
The full record between Hoppers and Sedgley Park reads in Preston Grasshoppers favour by thirteen to six. The three Club games back in the 1980’s were all won by Hoppers and league wins stand in favour of Hoppers by five to two whilst Lancashire Cup clashes are also in Hoppers favour by four to one. The pre-season game played at Lightfoot Green back in 2011 turned out to be a comprehensive victory for the visitors. So there have been sixteen games between the two clubs, Hoppers winning twelve to Park’s four.
With the season at its half way mark and the Christmas break almost upon us this gives us a chance to look at the teams currently in the hunt for promotion and those in and around the drop zone which might affect next season in National 2 North.
The top of our league has turned into a four-way fight for the top two places with Macclesfield, Darlington Mowden Park, Stourbridge and our opponents this week eleven points clear of our first visitors in the new year, Chester. Just eight points separate the top four and the final game of the season (weather permitting) when Macclesfield travel to Darlington MP looking at this stage to be a deciding factor.
A look at the other end of N2N sees Dudley Kingswinford so far adrift that to avoid relegation would need a major miracle. The other two places look likely to be fought over by three clubs at present. Hull have won three times from six outings since our victory at the Ferens Ground and now have some clear space between themselves and the two other strugglers down there, Bromsgrove and Sheffield Tigers.
Who will be relegated from National 1 into our league? Well similar to DK, Hull Ionians will need to turn things round in dramatic fashion if they’re to avoid the drop and Tynedale are seven points from the safety zone at present. Interestingly there isn’t another northern club in the bottom half of that table as things stand.
Looking at the top of the relative leagues in Level 5 sees Huddersfield atop the Northern section after recent undefeated table toppers Rossendale suffered three defeats in their last four outings. Sale and Stockport are also handily placed for a push to gain promotion.
The Midlands section sees Nuneaton in top spot, four points clear of the chasing pack in the shape of Broadstreet, Sutton Coldfield and Old Halesonians
Just one other game being played by Hoppers Senior teams this coming Saturday when our 2nd XV will be looking to get back to winning ways against Sedgley Park 2’s. There is a Curry Buffet available before that game for just £10. Please email the club via firstname.lastname@example.org if you are going to attend so the club has an idea of numbers.
Photograph courtesy of Mike Craig