East Harling ready for festive derby encounters with Thetford Rovers and Attleborough Town
East Harling have been busy preparing for back-to-back derby fixtures in the run up to Christmas.
And if his men can pick up maximum points from those two encounters, manager Stacey Lawrence believes that it will set them up nicely for a Fosters Solicitors Anglian Combination Division One promotion push during the first half of next year.
Tomorrow, the Green Army will make the nine-mile trip down the A1066 to take on Thetford Rovers, followed seven days later by an even shorter journey to Attleborough Town (both 1.30pm).
Harling go into the matches sitting third, two points adrift of second-placed Sprowston and seven behind table-topping Aylsham – with a game in hand on both.
Two wins would be the perfect early Christmas present for Lawrence, who is expecting both to be evenly contested.
“There is not much between the three of us in terms of distance. We are sort of in the middle of the two of them and there is often players moving between the three clubs,” he said.
“These games always mean a lot more – you can’t hide the fact that when the whistle blows it’s a bit more than a normal game.
“They’ll be lively ones, pretty fast paced and probably a bit scrappy at times.
“We know each other well so it’s going to be difficult for anyone to get that edge.
“Six points would open it up for us to have a massive second half of the season.
“There are probably five or six managers who believe their sides are in with a shot of winning the league this year, particularly with no Heacham or Wymondham.
“We’re one of those, especially if we can pick up good results in the next two.”
The weekend clash with Rovers looks to be particularly important, with the hosts also harbouring promotion ambitions.
Their opponents are fifth, four points worse off than Lawrence’s charges and on a run of four games without a win in all competitions.
It is a battle in which the Harling boss is well versed, although not when both have been riding so high in the table.
“I’ve played against Rovers when they’ve been struggling, they’ve not won a game and then they’ve beaten us – that’s derbies for you,” he added.
“I don’t remember a game like this with so much at stake for both sides towards the top of the table, certainly not in Division One.
“In a way they probably need the win more than us because we’ve got the points on the board, but obviously we’re keen to win it.
“They’re a good side with some good players – we know it won’t be easy.”
Harling go into the Rovers match-up having not played since the 3-1 win over Norwich United Under-21s on November 20.
Trips to the same opposition and Sprowston have subsequently been postponed, but Lawrence does not expect ‘rustiness’ to become an issue.
“It’s a real shame those two were off because we’re in good form and had some good momentum,” he said.
“We’ve been training to make sure we’re fit and ready, but I know there is no substitute for playing matches.
“I don’t see rustiness being a factor though because this is a derby.
“There is often no time to think in these games, it’s so fast paced so you don’t have time to worry about those sort of things.”