Photo courtesy of Mike Craig
Westoe vs Preston Grasshoppers – Kick Off 2pm
15. Sean Taylor, 14. Matt Hughes, 13. Phil Baines, 12. Jack Ward, 11. Matt Gargett, 10. Graham Holroyd, 9. Mark Edwards, 1. Chris Gale, 2. Alan Martindale, 3. Richard Morton, 4. Ali Atkinson, 5. Wayne Steel Capt. 6. Conor Murphy, 7. Killian Wallace, 8. Dominic Moon.
Replacements: 16. Phil Mills, 17. Andy Irving, 18. Alex Austin, 19. Matt Charters, 20. Antony Elliott.
With Alan Holmes taking the weekend off as his wife is due to give birth and Sean Long on Rugby League duties, Alan Martindale moves up from the bench and the League’s joint top try scorer returns to the wing after just a week’s absence. Matt Charters drops to the bench making way for the impressive Killian Wallace, with Phil Mills and Alex Austin making a return to First Team duties sitting on the bench.
Hoppers will make the long trip to the North East this coming Saturday, paying a visit to Westoe and their sloping Wood Terrace ground hoping to continue their good run and build on last week’s performance where they defended well, making it very difficult for Bromsgrove to cross the gain line.
The big question this coming Saturday is can Hoppers break the long standing run of away victories from 2006/7 and gain a fifth consecutive victory on the road? Added to that run six years ago was a National Cup victory at Derby making it five consecutive wins on the road. To find five League wins on the trot meant a trawl further back in the history books when in our North 1 promotion season six consecutive wins were recorded after losing the first away trip of the season at Morley. To tie things up completely, the last time Hoppers won five games away from home together in this league, was in the promotion season 1998/99 when seven consecutive away games were won.
A look at the league table this week shows Hoppers sitting in fifth position, a somewhat higher position than in recent seasons. The fifty eight points accumulated so far this term is more than the end of season totals from two of the last four. In the other two, totals of sixty three and just sixty look easily achievable with over a third of the season still to play. Our third place finish back in 2007 is very probably the last time we sat so high in the table, although our pre-Christmas form in recent seasons has seen us sit in the top half just prior to the Christmas break. The target has to be beating the eighty five points from 2006/7 when we finished in third place behind the North Eastern duo, Tynedale and Blaydon.
The South Shields outfit have had a successful season to date, although they made an uncharacteristic slip last week at Nuneaton, which cost them second place in the table. Westoe boast a similar home record to Hoppers, losing just twice, to the Students and somewhat surprisingly also to Stockport.
League fixtures against this weekend’s opponents began relatively recently when Westoe gained promotion into the National Leagues from North 1 at the end of the 2008/9 season. In the four meetings (one game being cancelled as the result would have been of no consequence) since their promotion, Hoppers won the first fixture at Wood Lane, lost the next two games but won this season’s earlier encounter at Lightfoot Green by twenty seven points to twenty to even the record.
Club fixtures between the two clubs go back to the 1975/6 season when Hoppers won at Lightfoot Green by thirteen points to four on the 11th of October. The total record of matches between the two clubs reads eight wins to Hoppers, three to Westoe with one game finishing ten points all during the 1980/81 season at Wood Terrace.
It’s a Raging Bull Cup weekend this coming Saturday and with our two remaining teams still in the competition being drawn away, the 2nd’s at Broughton Park in the Cup and the 3rd’s at Aldwinians in the Trophy, the Lightfoot Green pitches will be given a well deserved rest.