THE scene could hardly be better set for tonight’s hugely-important Tendring derby between FC CLACTON and BRIGHTLINGSEA REGENT.
The rivals are both desperate for points - for very different reasons.
Promotion-chasing Regent can go second in the Thurlow Nunn League premier division, if they draw or win at the Rush Green Bowl.
And at the other end of the table, Clacton can scramble out of the bottom three if they cause an upset and beat their high-flying opponents.
Throw in the added ingredient of local pride and it promises to be a fascinating night of non-league football.
Regent boss James Webster has described the match as the “the biggest of our season” and could hand a debut to new signing Rob Thorne, who has joined from Gas Recreation.
“It’s a massive game and we can’t wait,” he said.
“It’s the biggest game of the season, in our eyes.
“Clacton will be fired up and we know we’ll have to be at our best to get something from the game.”
Goalkeeper Dan Beeson is still out injured and will again be replaced by Brantham Athletic loanee Ryan Bedingfield.
Kevin Hughes (knee) could also return, while Phil Kelly (broken metatarsal) may be fit to take a place on the bench.
Clacton boss Glenn Eldridge insists his side have nothing to fear, especially on the back of an encouraging performance against Norwich United on Saturday.
“We’ve got to take that performance into tonight’s game,” he said.
“Brightlingsea will be favourites but we don’t mind that.
“We prefer going into games as underdogs.
“We’re not scared of anyone and I know we’re good enough to turn them over.
“The boys seem to perform against the bigger teams and we haven’t got anything to fear.”
Clacton goalkeeper Joe Fowler (knee) should be fit enough to keep his place, having managed to get through Saturday’s 1-1 draw against Norwich.
The Seasiders also welcome back the likes of Kyelan Marvell and Parris Newland, who were unavailable on Saturday.
Clacton and Brightlingsea will be hoping it’s a case of third-time lucky, after a water-logged pitch and then a floodlight failure led to two postponements.
They are yet to meet in the league, as their match at North Road is set to take place on Easter Monday.
However, they did meet in the Essex Senior Cup second round, at the Bowl, in early October.
Regent won 4-1 on penalties, after a 1-1 draw.