Stourbridge vs. Preston Grasshoppers
Preston Grasshoppers will be aiming to carry forward their excellent performance from last Saturday when they visit Stourton Park this weekend to play Midlands side Stourbridge and collect their first win of the season on the road.
Having securely locked away their poor performance at Hinckley from the previous week, Hoppers completely outplayed a Hull Ionians side who were never allowed to look like they sat at the head of the table. The visitors arrived with an impressive record, with just one defeat in twelve since their relegation from National 1 at the end of last season. One of the visiting ‘Alakadoos’ boasted at half time “Ionians won’t be worried about the deficit, this happens most weeks and their superior fitness will once again see them to victory” Well that didn’t, and never looked liked it was going to happen as Hoppers completely dominated the second forty minutes giving themselves and their supporters, walking back to the warmth of the Clubhouse through the drizzling rain, a nice warm glow.
Our hosts next Saturday have had something of a slump during recent weeks, winning just once from their last five outings, albeit all four defeats have been at the hands of sides from the top half of the table. Their solitary win during this period was over Sedgley Park at home, who are also from this group of clubs.
Meetings between Hoppers and Stourbridge go back to the 24th of November 1973 in our very first season at Lightfoot Green. Hoppers ran out narrow winners that day by six points to three, before the return fixture at Stourton two seasons later when the home side recorded a comfortable victory.
The next meeting was the day after the annual Fylde Boxing Day match in 1986, the season before the National Leagues were formed and both Hoppers and Stourbridge started their respective journey into league rugby together at level 4 in what was then titled the Courage Area League (North).
The two clubs had stayed partners at this level until Hoppers promotion, a season when Stourbridge together with New Brighton and Kendal (who were promoted the following season) were Hoppers main challengers throughout, with a January twenty five points to ten victory at Stourton Park probably being the deciding factor.
Stourbridge finally gained promotion to what was then National 2 a couple of seasons later in what was to prove Hoppers final season at that level and until relegation at the end of the season back in 2012, the Midlands outfit had maintained Level 3 status.
The all time playing record between next week’s opponents has Stourbridge having won eighteen matches to Hoppers thirteen and the League record tells a similar but rather closer story of twelve victories to Hoppers and fifteen to Stourbridge. The overall record includes a forty four points to nineteen Powergen Cup victory to Stourbridge during the 1995/6 season at Lightfoot Green, which until a few seasons ago was their biggest winning margin over Hoppers whilst a thirty two points to three victory in their promotion season was the Hoppers best effort.
Hoppers are forced into several changes this week with Rouban Birch unavailable and Head Coach Paul Arnold rested. Taking their places are Jack Edwards and Chris Roddy. The bench is all change with Connor Johnson, Ryan Purcell and Adam Howard all able to cover front row. Jake Squirrell returns on the bench alongside new arrival Nathan Pope who is dual registered with Sale Sharks and will be looking to impress on his debut.
1. Oga Mabaya
2. PJ Millea (C)
3. Peter Altham
4. Luke Procter
5. Chris Roddy
6. Alastair Murray
7. Jack Edwards
8. Matthew Lamprey
9. James Gough
10. Thomas Davidson
11. Conor Trueman
12. Sam Stott
13. Matt Crow
14. Tyler Spence
15. Brad Cave
16. Connor Johnson
17. Ryan Purcell
18. Adam Howard
19. Jake Squirrell
20. Nathan Pope