It’s National Two (North) 5th v 3rd contest when Huddersfield visit the Woodlands on Saturday (ko 3pm). The two clubs are separated by just two points and have almost identical records to date. Each have won eight matches (5 at home, 3 away) and lost five (2 at home, 3 away). Fylde have scored more points but have also conceded more.
With the season approaching it’s mid point, Saturday’s game is likely to be close and exciting. ‘Field’ have won a number of home games narrowly (Hoppers 28-27; Leicester Lions 17-15; Tynedale 24-21 & Stourbridge 15-10) and gave an outstanding performance to down high flying Hinckley (41-8). All their five defeats have been by no more than 7 points, so they’ve proved a resilient outfit with an impressive defence.
Huddersfield are a long established club, dating in their oldest manifestation back to 1878. Since the formation of the league system, certainly in the last 15 years, they have yo-yo’d between levels 5 and 4. Their first season in the National Leagues was in 2008/9 when they first met Fylde. Until Fylde were promoted to National One, the clubs played each other on six occasions, with Fylde shading the bragging rights with four wins and two defeats.
In 2012/3 Huddersfield were relegated back to North Premier (level 5) but came storming back the following season as champions. Another season in N2N led to another immediate relegation but in 2016/17 once again they finished top of the division and were back in N2N last season when they performed well and finished 6th. So they are acclimatising to the requirements of level 4 and have built on this in the current campaign.
Under Head Coach Gareth Lewis they have recruited ambitiously and obviously have plans to strengthen their league fortunes. Nothing symbolises this more than the news in early November that former Fylde fly-half Chris Johnson was leaving Sale FC and returning to Lockwood Park where he made his name, joining from Rochdale as a young player back in 2006/7. He established himself as a prodigious goal kicker and in the three seasons between 2009-12 he scored an extraordinary 1,076 points. He joined Fylde for the 2012-13 season and in four seasons at the Woodlands he notched another 990 points. He moved on to Sale FC for the 2016-17 campaign and last season he scored 324 points to lead their successful promotion campaign.
As he proved at Fylde, Chris Johnson is much more than just a goal kicker. He tackles like a wing forward and, most astonishing of all, has proved so durable that he’s missed just a handful of games since 2009 in this very physical, competitive environment. He has also proved himself as a regular for Lancashire and England Counties for whom he was skipper on frequent occasions. He’ll receive a warm welcome from everyone at the Woodlands for his contribution to Fylde’s four very successful National One seasons from 2012-2016.
Another principal stalwart for ‘Field has been the excellent backrower Nick Sharpe who has made 250 appearances for the Club. The new 1st XV skipper this season is another backrower, the powerful Dicky Piper, ex-Cleckheaton and a Yorkshire County player. Veteran Yorkshire County prop Adam Blades (ex-Halifax and Otley) joined ‘Field last season and is still doing his stuff at National Level. Some Fylde supporters will remember a very young Kieran Brookes in his first season for his home club a decade ago locking horns with the wily Blades, then with Halifax, in a struggle for control in the scrummages.
A young newcomer who is already making serious waves in N2N is Yorkshire Carnegie dual registrant Kian Stewart. The winger has already scored eight tries in just six appearances for the Club.
Top points scorer is centre Will Milner who has 76 points to date. He was the principal goal kicker before Chris Johnson moved back to Lockwood Park
Field’s line-up is:
15 Tom Hodson; 14 Kian Stewart, 13 Lewis Workman, 12 Will Milner, 11 Elliot Knight; 10 Chris Johnson, 9 Joe Green; 1 Harry Whitfield, 2 Fran Entressengle, 3 Alex Battye, 4 Guy Borrowdale, 5 Nick Sharpe, 6 Liam Parfitt, 7 Lewis Bradley, 8 Dickie Piper (c).
Replacements: 16 Adam Blades, 17 Mark Chivers, 18 Matt Dunn, 19 Bob Sykes, 20 Jack Maplesden
Fylde make three changes to their starting line-up. Their backline is unchanged. In the pack, injuries to Elliot Horner and Harlan Corrie rule them out and they are replaced by Sale Sharks dual registered prop Bevan Rodd and flanker Ben O’Ryan. Sam Dugdale is unavailable so Jacob Conner returns at no 8. The former Northampton Saints Academy player was injured on his debut but has now recovered. Amongst the replacements, Adam Joyner is ruled out through injury and there are recalls for prop Cal Ford, hooker Alex Loney and scrum-half Gus Warr.
15 Tom Carleton; 14 James Bailey, 13 Ralph Dowds, 12 Connor Wilkinson, 11 Tom Grimes; 10 Greg Smith, 9 Cameron Crampton; 1 Bevan Rodd, 2 Ben Gregory, 3 Adam Lewis, 4 Olli Parkinson, 5 Nick Ashcroft, 6 Ben Vernon, 7 Ben O’Ryan, 8 Jacob Conner.
16 Cal Ford, 17 Alex Loney, 18 Matt Garrod, 19 Gus Warr, 20 Luke Fowden[Photo above: last time the clubs met in 2010-11]