Fylde visit the impressively sited Lockwood Park ground to take on Huddersfield on Saturday (ko 15.00). This is a meeting of the 4th & 3rd placed clubs in National Two in what is likely to be a very tight contest as the previous game was between them in December which ended in a 20-20 draw.
Both clubs are locked together on 88 points, 11 behind the leading duo of Hull Ionians and Chester, with Fylde ahead on points difference. Statistically, both are still in the promotion race but with just three games to go, the gap seems too great to make up. Nevertheless, there is no doubt that Saturday’s game will be fiercely contested between clubs with virtually identical playing records this season. Both have won 17 matches, drawn one (v each other) and lost 9, and the form of both has been uneven in recent weeks. Field have lost four of their last six fixtures, Fylde losing three of their last five.
Extraordinarily, ‘Field had their biggest ever N2N victoryon 23rd March, 91-24 against South Leicester, and then suffered their biggest ever loss last Saturday when they went down by 57-10 at Chester.
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 have acclimatised 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.
Another principal stalwart for ‘Field has been the excellent backrower Nick Sharpe who has made over 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.
Top points scorer is Johnson with 195 points. A young newcomer who is already making serious waves in N2N is Yorkshire Carnegie dual registrant Kian Stewart. The winger has already scored 14 tries, with centre Lewis Workman notching 12 to date.
Click here for the match report and photographs of the December 2018 match at the Woodlands.
Fylde make five changes in their starting line-up, with Ralph Dowds at centre, props Elliot Horner and Adam Lewis, lock Nick Ashcroft and no 8 Jacob Conner all returning. There’s recognition of his hard work in the Hawks squad with a call up for Lancashire U’20s back rowe James Torkington who joins the replacements.
15 Connor Wilkinson; 14 Henry Hadfield, 13 Ralph Dowds, 12 Chris Briers, 11 Tom Carleton; 10 Greg Smith, 9 Cameron Crampton; 1 Elliot Horner, 2 Ben Gregory, 3 Adam Lewis, 4 Nick Ashcroft, 5 Matt Garrod, 6 Harlan Corrie, 7 Ben Vernon, 8 Jacob Conner.
16 Matt Ashcroft, 17 Alex Loney, 18 Ben O’Ryan, 19 James Torkington, 20 Tom Grimes.