Fylde ready as excitement builds for derby at Preston Grasshoppers

Adam Lewis in action against Otley
Adam Lewis in action against Otley
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Warren Spragg admits he’s unsure what sort of match to expect when his Fylde side visit arch-rivals Preston Grasshoppers for their first league encounter since 2011 tomorrow,  though the head coach is certain of one thing: “Both teams will be fired up and it will be emotionally charged.”

READ MORE: Fylde 24 Otley 14
The clubs played out contrasting matches on the opening day of the National Two North season: Fylde roared into a 24-0 lead at home to Otley, who then tested their defensive resolve as what became a tight contest ended 24-14.

Defences were never on top at Chester, where Hoppers lost 48-37 but the red-hot rivalry of derby day will present a completely different test.

Spragg, whose side has won 11 of the clubs’ 14 league meetings this century, said: “The Brendan Hanavan Trophy match has rekindled this fixture and remembers a legend of the game, but for the clubs to play each other in the league again is really exciting.

“The important thing is not to judge the season on who wins these two games.”

There will be bragging rights at stake for head coaches, Spragg and his former Fylde team-mate, Paul Arnold.

“Arnie and I have been friends for a long time but we haven’t spoken this week,” added Spragg. “What matters is that they will be well prepared and well coached, and we need to be ready.

“I don’t know what sort of game we are going to see. I know what I would like to see – us scoring points and preventing them from scoring – but they have a good pack and dangerous attacking players.”

Fylde will feature a more recognisable half-back pairing after Greg Smith was unavailable last weekend and veteran centre Chris Briers filled in.

Spragg said: “Greg is back for the rest of the season. Chris did an excellent job and got the boys moving but we don’t want him playing 10 regularly.

“Cam Crampton did everything we asked of him at scrum-half. He accepted the responsibility of doing all the kicking and that’s the attitude we want.”

Crampton was just one of the debutants to impress his coach, who added: “Elliot Horner did really well at prop. We asked a lot of him and he did it. He found the scrum difficult, which he will.

“He played 80 minutes as did Adam Lewis, which is very difficult for a prop. It was Adam’s (pictured) 196th game and Elliot’s first!

“Ben O’Ryan had a bright start until he got a dead leg. Hopefully he will be able to play on Saturday.”

And Spragg goes into the Lightfoot Green cauldron buoyed by last weekend’s display.

“We looked really good at the start and the skill level was really high,” he said.

“We could have been better in the second half and they did test us, which is to be expected. We won’t get things all our own way in this division.”