Fylde welcome our old friends and rivals Macclesfield back to the Woodlands on Saturday (ko 3pm) after a two year break. Fixtures between these clubs are a clear indication of the changing fate of National League competition. When they last met in December 2016, Fylde and Macc were the two senior North West clubs outside Sale Sharks. Macc were relegated at the end of that season back to National Two North (level 4) and Fylde followed them last April. Meanwhile, Caldy and Sale FC have gained promotion to National One and currently have the region’s bragging rights.
The Blues have proved the ultimate yo-yo National League club. They rose to the highest level in their history, Nat One, in 2010-11, a season ahead of Fylde. Their first two campaigns were very successful, finishing in 4th then 6th in Nat One. The following season was a struggle and they finished 14th on the last day of the season and were unluckily relegated. Back in N2N in 2013-14 they had an outstanding season and finished champions. Promotion to Nat One was a mixed blessing and they had a very disappointing 2014-15 season finishing bottom of the table and relegation. Once again they repeated their dominating form in N2N and they finished the 2015-16 season top of the table. It proved déjà vu as they again finished in 16th place in N1 and relegation called. Last season they achieved stability and earned a comfortable mid-table position of 8th in N2N.
Meetings between the two clubs have always been competitive with the added crackle of North West bragging rights at stake. In the eight National One fixtures since 2011-12, Fylde have won six, Macc two. Most have been high scoring affairs, with 134 points being shared in the two games in 2011-12.
Macclesfield’s two early season games this season have resulted in defeats, 24-47 at South Leicester and last Saturday, a tight 10-24 all-Cheshire affair against fierce rivals Chester at Priory Park.
Rather like Fylde at the end of the 2016-17 season at the Woodlands when they lost a stream of experienced players, Macclesfield have suffered something similar this season. Highly respected talents such as Dave Marwick, Ryan Parkinson and Lewis Barker have either retired or moved on. Fylde lock Olli Parkinson moved to the Woodlands from Priory Park a year earlier.
Under new Head Coach Marshall Gadd, a crop of very promising young players have replaced the experienced departees and these are expected to be the foundation of the squad in the coming years. Their new skipper is former Sale Sharks/Jets & England U’20s fly-half Tom Morton who made nine 1st XV appearances for Fylde on dual registration in 2015-16. He also carries goal kicking responsibilities.
Retained experience includes hooker Sam Moss, prop Tom Mantell, back five players Tom Poole and Frankie Barker, and wing Myles Hall. A major new recruit is another former Sale Sharks back who has played in the claret and gold at the Woodlands a decade ago, centre Jordan Davies. He made seven 1st team appearances back in the 2008-9 season. He went on to full time professional contracts with Sale Sharks, Rotherham Titans and Jersey. He’ll get a warm welcome back at the Woodlands.
Fylde make two changes to their starting line-up from that at Lightfoot Green last Saturday. Lock Nick Ashcroft is injured and is replaced by Olli Parkinson, and flanker Sam Dugdale makes his league debut for the Club. Dugdale is a talented, young Sale Sharks player who joins the Club on a dual registration basis. He made a good impression in Fylde’s pre-season games against Kirkby Lonsdale and Ampthill.
Sam is a former Kirkham Grammar School student, was a standout member of Preston Grasshoppers’ youth teams and has represented England at U’16s and U’18s level. Earlier in 2018 he earned a five year contract with the Sharks.
Dugdale will be the 7th KGS product in Saturday’s squad. With Alex Loney, Nick Ashcroft and his brother Matthew in the wings, let alone another alumnus, Head Coach Warren Spragg, the School’s contribution to the current Fylde squad is clear to all.
15 Tom Carleton; 14 Henry Hadfield, 13 Chris Briers, 12 Connor Wilkinson, 11 Tom Grimes; 10 Greg Smith, 9 Cameron Crampton; 1 Elliot Horner, 2 Ben Gregory, 3 Adam Lewis, 4 Olli Parkinson, 5 Matt Garrod, 6 Sam Dugdale, 7 Ben Vernon, 8 David Fairbrother.
16 Adam Joyner, 17 Tom Burtonwood, 18 Harlan Corrie, 19 Ben O’Ryan, 20 Luke Fowden.
Featured photo above: back in December 2016 at the Woodland
Photo below: Sam Dugdale