Fylde visit the impressively sited Lockwood Park ground to take on Huddersfield on Saturday (ko 15.00). Although separated by twelve places in National Two (North) – Fylde are in 2nd spot, ‘Field are 14th – there’s no doubt that the visitors will once again face determined and able opponents in this Roses clash.
Huddersfield had an excellent season in 2018-19, pushing the leading clubs all the way and eventually finishing in 4th place, ahead of 6th placed Fylde. This season, albeit with a similarly strong squad, very surprisingly they have struggled and will be desperate to raise their game against the Lancastrians and start to turn results around in 2020. Although only just past halfway in the 2019-20 season, ‘Field have lost as many matches – 10 – as they did during the whole of last season, including a decisive 40-10 defeat by Fylde at the Woodlands in September.
Three of their four victories have been at home (25-24 v Scunthorpe, 32-31 v Stourbridge & 25-19 v Loughborough Students). They’ve struggled away from Lockwood Park, winning and drawing once, losing six times. They’ve put in creditable performances at Caldy (34-13) and last Saturday at Sedgley Park (28-24) and were ahead in both games at one stage. Indeed, they looked to have caused a big shock in the last game when only a last minute try and conversion by Sedgley’s Steve Collins robbed them of a fine victory. They’ll be looking to take this form forward at home to Fylde to ease their relegation worries – they will be fierce opponents.
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. The clubs have played nine games to date, with Fylde holding the bragging rights with five victories and a draw. However, they have struggled at Lockwood Park with three defeats and just a single victory back in their promotion season in 2010/11.
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.
Under Head Coach Gareth Lewis they have recruited ambitiously in the past couple of seasons and pulled off a particular coup when in September 2018 they attracted former fly-half and points machine Chris Johnson back to the club where he made his initial breakthrough at a national level. He made a predictable impact last season and scored over 200 points in 20 matches before returning again to Sale FC in National One for 2019/20.
Despite the loss of Johnson, Lewis explained: “I am delighted that the vast majority of the squad will be with us once again in 2019-20, which allows us to get the continuity we want and to improve further as a club, with the core group of players.”
Summer recruits include the return of Yorkshire tight head prop Laurence Sanderson, after spells at Sale and Otley, and back rower Harvey Keighley-Payne, who played last season at Old Rishworthians.
After spells around the Yorkshire leagues, South African tight head prop Josh Crickmay has put in a series of impressive performances since joining in the summer while Lewis also moved to snap up former Yorkshire Carnegie academy fly half Cail Cookland, formerly with Harrogate.
Of the established members of the squad, a principal stalwart for ‘Field has been the excellent lock/backrower Nick Sharpe who has made over 270 appearances for the Club. The 1st XV skipper is another backrower, the powerful no 8 Dicky Piper, ex-Cleckheaton and a Yorkshire County player. Other prominent members of the pack include props Reuban Pollard and Callum Thompson, lock Guy Borrowdale and openside flanker Lewis Bradley.
Important members of the back line include centre Lewis Workman, scrum-half Joel Hinchcliffe and fullback Tom Hodson. A young newcomer last season who is again making waves in N2N is Yorkshire Carnegie dual registrant Kian Stewart. The winger scored 14 tries last season and has again crossed the line during this campaign.
The goal kicking responsibilities have been shared mainly between utility backs Will Milner and Charlie Morgan.
Fylde make two changes to their starting line-up for the trip, with Lex Botha named on the wing and Hallam Chapman in the backrow of the pack in place of the injured Olli Parkinson.
Matt Garrod returns to 1st XV action amongst the replacements after injury and subsequent surgery has kept him on the sidelines since early October.
15 Tom Carleton; 14 Lex Botha, 13 Connor Wilkinson, 12 Scott Rawlings, 11 Tom Grimes; 10 Greg Smith, 9 Adam Lanigan; 1 Elliot Horner, 2 Ben Gregory, 3 Adam Lewis, 4 Nick Ashcroft, 5 Jacob Conner, 6 Hallam Chapman, 7 Ben Vernon, 8 David Fairbrother.
16 Matt Ashcroft, 17 Drew Stephenson, 18 Matt Garrod, 19 Ben O’Ryan, 20 Chris Briers.
It’s hoped that a decent contingent of Fylde supporters will make the trip over the Pennines to cheer on the squad.
From the M62 Eastbound (Manchester)
Leave at Junction 23 and follow the Huddersfield signs to the ring road (A62). Once you are on the ring road, please follow signs for the A616 to Holmfirth/Sheffield. At the third set of traffic lights (Lockwood Bar) with a shop called ‘Black Label’ in front of you, go straight ahead and you will see the entrance to Lockwood Park after a quarter of a mile on your left.