Fylde RFC v Preston Grasshoppers: Spragg's warriors prepared for Christmas battle

Preston Grasshoppers had the edge over Fylde in this season's first derby at Lightfoot Green in September
Preston Grasshoppers had the edge over Fylde in this season's first derby at Lightfoot Green in September
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Fylde were in the wars at Sedgley Park last weekend but head coach Warren Spragg says they are ready for battle in tomorrow’s mouthwatering derby collision with Preston Grasshoppers at the Woodlands.

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Spragg’s side stretched their unbeaten run in National Two North to six games with Saturday’s bruising 22-14 success in Bury, though five Fylde players were forced off injured during the match, centre Ralph Dowds having withdrawn ahead of kick-off with food poisoning.

Although Harlan Corrie, Adam Joyner and David Fairbrother remain unavailable, Spragg is hopeful that most of the Sedgley Park casualties will be passed fit.

He told The Gazette: “It’s same every week. It’s a tough old game which takes its toll on players’ bodies. We have a committed bunch, so you pick up knocks left, right and centre.

“We had to make three substitutions in the first half and two more in the second, so it tested the depth of our squad and credit to the lads who stepped up to help us earn the win.”

Jonny Wild is ruled out with concussion but Spragg hopes to have Henry Hadfield, Matt Garrod and Dowds available, as well as backs Cam Crampton and Hoppers youth product Tom Grimes, who both suffered eye injuries last Saturday.

Fylde will be without their four dual-registered players due to Sale Sharks commitments and Spragg added: “It’s the same for Preston, which is a shame because the dual-reg players have been good for both clubs and they get a lot out of playing in our league.”

But Spragg is confident that all those who take the field will rise to this extra-special occasion.

It’s the first league clash between the clubs at Fylde since 2010, when Jason Robinson made his debut in front of 2,000 supporters.

Fylde have won 11 of this century’s 15 derbies against Hoppers, though the Lightfoot Green club hold current bragging rights after an 18-15 home win over their arch-rivals on the second weekend of the season.

That was Preston’s only win in their first six games following promotion, though they have certainly found their feet and a three-match winning streak has left them just three points behind Fylde. Hoppers have accrued more four-try bonus points (12) than any other side in the league.

And it is no surprise to Spragg that Preston have come good. He added: “They have certainly strengthened but I will back our lads all day long.

“We have a lot of young players learning the game, whereas they have recruited seasoned players from outside the club who have National League experience and know what they are doing.

“They will be difficult to beat and will not roll over but we will be prepared for them.

“There will be a lot going on around the club on Saturday and there will be a big crowd and a good atmosphere.

“I want us to win playing our brand of attacking rugby but we’ll take any victory.”

As if any extra spice were needed, the top three all lost last weekend, enabling Fylde to pull level with third-placed Hinckley (who take the higher position having won one more game).

Spragg said: “It is quite exciting but if we lose on Saturday Preston could go past us and we could drop to seventh.

“At this stage the league table is not what’s important. It’s about keeping on winning and picking up as many bonus points as possible.”

The 3pm derby will be preceded by a clash of the clubs’ Second XVs at 1pm.