There’s another chance for Preston Grasshoppers to end their last-ditch defeat bogey tomorrow, when Sheffield Tigers – level with them on 18 points in National Two North – head for Lightfoot Green.
Four losing bonus points and six four-try bonuses show that Hoppers have plenty to offer, but they need to rid themselves of the propensity to throw away leads in the dying moments, as has happened in four of their six defeats to date. “Game management” will have been head coach Paul Arnold’s mantra this week.
Sheffield are 11th in the table, one above Preston, as they have won three games out of eight to Hoppers’ two. But, with Peterborough and Macclesfield in danger of being cut adrift at the foot, it’s very tight above those two; just two points separate ninth-placed Otley from Tynedale in 14th.
Arnold will make a late choice from a 22-strong squad due to injury checks. Definitely out are Ryan Wilkinson and Jack Edwards, who are injured, and Noah Miller and Teddy Leatherbarrow, who are unavailable.
Lock Adam Howard returns after injury, scrum-half James Gough is back after being unavailable last week and Tyler Sloane is called up to provide front-row cover.
Fylde, who have slipped from third to seventh in the last four weeks, host table-toppers Hull Ionians.
The Humbersiders have lost just once in eight games – at second-placed Hinckley, who also overturned Fylde last Saturday – while the Ansdell side has won four and lost four.
Life in the North Premier League gets no easier for Vale of Lune, who have now lost all seven games and picked up just two bonus points to remain bottom.
This weekend, they travel to Lymm, who are in 11th place after three victories and four defeats.
Vale are without Damon Hall, Blake Steele and Ross Pillow, but Jordan Dorrington returns at full-back. Chris Ramwell is on the wing, Steve Tegg props and Ruan Fourie starts in the back row after an impressive display as a replacement last week.
Hoppers (from): Ward, Trueman, Crow, Hurst, Stott, Fitzpatrick, Spence, Davidson, Gough; Mabaya, Purcell, Sloane, Millea, Johnson, Altham, Procter, Arnold, Howard, Murray, Birch, Trippier, Lamprey.
Vale: J Dorrington; Jacques, Owens, Hunt, Ramwell; Turton, Swarbrick; Tegg, Powers, Bradshaw, Fellows, Wallbank, Robinson, Ayrton, Fourie. Replacements: Lomas, Foxcroft, Hesketh.