Fylde RFC look forward to Preston Grasshoppers derby day

Fylde's Tom Carleton
Fylde's Tom Carleton

Fylde RFC welcome Preston Grasshoppers for an early-season derby tomorrow (3pm) and head coach Warren Spragg wouldn’t mind a repeat of their last visit.

The hosts won that Woodlands encounter last Christmas 33-17, watched by a crowd of more than 2,000.

Fylde go into tomorrow’s clash in free-scoring form, having scored 50 points in last Saturday’s opener at Scunthorpe and in both warm-up fixtures, while Hoppers started with a 30-20 home defeat to Sedgley Park.

Spragg was not entirely happy with the performance at newly-promoted Scunthorpe, though Fylde wrapped up victory with seven first-half tries having trailed 20-14 after 20 minutes.

He told The Gazette: “We were sloppy at the start and we let them score some points. We were a bit too relaxed but then we clicked and had a good 20-25 minutes, when we looked really clinical.

“We got a bit sloppy again second half but we’d done our job and you can’t pick up more than five points.”

Fylde’s prolific backs were again among the tries as full-back Tom Carleton scored a hat-trick and centre Connor Wilkinson a brace, while wings Lex Botha and Tom Grimes also touched down, but Spragg was quick to salute the work of the forwards up the middle, including impressive debutant Hal Chapman.

He added: “With our ball-carriers taking us forward, we would expect to create space for the quick players and they are doing a good job.

“We wanted to give Hal as much game-time as possible to get him used to the way we organise in attack, which is different to Sedg (Chapman’s former club Sedgley Park). But he’s a skilful and smart player as well as being a strong runner.”

There could be a change in the Fylde pack, with Oli Parkinson available after concussion, and Spragg accepts that gives him a problem.

He said: “It makes life difficult because Jacob Conner did a really good job in the second row at Scunthorpe, where Matt Garrod was on the bench.

“It’s a really difficult decision because someone has to miss out but that’s the nature of the job. You hope that whoever doesn’t play remains focused and reacts well because it’s a long season.”

Fylde also faced Hoppers on the second weekend of last season, losing 18-15 at Lightfoot Green, and Spragg has no problems with this fixture pattern, though he felt the hype affected his side 12 months ago as the clubs met in the league for the first time in eight seasons.

“We understand that they want the Christmas derby, which is why the first game against Hoppers has to be so early,” said Spragg.

“It’s an opportunity to get a big crowd at the start of the season, put on a good show and attract more people.

“It’s settled down after last year, when we got psyched out and the occasion got to us too much.

“We learned from it and were much better at our place last Christmas. It’s all about trying to remember that the key to these games is doing the same things you do every week.”