4:11pm Friday 19th December 2008
Fylde travel to meet local rivals Preston Grasshoppers on Saturday, with a large seasonal crowd expected to turn out for the derby game.
Aside from wanting to take the local bragging rights, Fylde, currently third in National Three (North), are desperate to put further pressure on leading clubs Caldy and Nuneaton.
Hoppers are in eighth place and come off the back of an impressive cup win over Hull.
Fylde’s away record this season, with just two victories, is unimpressive and they will have to improve their form away from the Woodlands considerably if they are to beat 'Hoppers who, apart from an off day in mid-September against Harrogate, have performed strongly at Lightfoot Green with a run of four successive wins.
If Hoppers’ 33 tries to date are put in the shade by the free running Fylde side that has so far run in 54 tries, then the weather and pitch conditions at Lightfoot Green may not be conducive to the kind of attacking rugby that the visitors have displayed so regularly at the Woodlands this season.
Hoppers also have the great advantage of a settled squad with lots of continuity in recent seasons.
Head coach Alex Keay has built and blended a team from young players, some of whom have come up through the impressive youth development ranks, others who have joined from clubs in and around the area.
But they continue to miss the inspirational back play of Olli Vinney, who has done such damage to Fylde and other N3N defences in recent seasons.
Fylde will welcome back Darren Clark from suspension and, if given the chance, he will relish taking on his old colleagues.
Fellow prop Andrew Irving played on loan for National One Manchester on Saturday against Bedford and will hope to make his debut on Saturday, as will Canadian international lock Oli Atkinson if he’s still available on loan from Moseley.
Only the long term injured players - Nick Royle, Adam Lewis and Nick King - will definitely miss the game.
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