THESE are nervous times for Colchester United supporters.

With the U’s teetering just above the League Two trapdoor, their fans are desperately hoping that they can somehow secure enough points in their remaining five matches to preserve their Football League status.

If Colchester do achieve their objective of staying up, the reality is that it is likely to be at the expense of their main Essex rivals, Southend United.

Despite Grimsby Town’s recent mini revival, the Mariners remain rooted to the bottom of the table, seven points adrift of safety with six games to go.

Their fate is by no means sealed but it is looking like an increasingly tall order for Paul Hurst’s side.

With Barrow sitting fourth from bottom – six points above the relegation with two games in hand, one of which they play tonight – it realistically looks at this stage as though it will either be Colchester or Southend who join Grimsby in dropping into the National League, next season.

There is a pivotal weekend of football ahead for both clubs as they battle to stay up, with the U’s hosting Walsall and Blues travelling to Exeter City.

All of their focus is currently on those games and rightly so.

But once those vital fixtures are completed, all eyes will turn to one of the biggest Essex derbies in years, the outcome of which is likely to go a long way to determining who stays up – and who goes down.

It could well be the final Essex derby to be played in the league between the two sides for at least a season.

And while there will be no sentiment, especially when a Football League place is at stake, that is a real shame, particularly with fans set to soon make a welcome return to matches.

Over the years, bragging rights have been won and lost, families divided for 90 minutes as the two clubs have battled for county pride.

The most recent derby between the sides at Roots Hall on Boxing Day was certainly a feisty affair, won 2-0 by the hosts.

Things boiled over at the end, with both clubs later charged by the FA following a melee between the two teams which led to referee Neil Hair brandishing a trio of yellow cards.

Imagine the mood inside the ground had there been fans in attendance – and just think how raucous the JobServe Community Stadium atmosphere would be next Tuesday night under the lights for the return meeting between the sides.

Historically, the fixture has created plenty of memorable moments for both clubs.

U’s fans will never forget Jamie Cureton’s wonderful Good Friday hat-trick at Roots Hall back in 2007, or their team’s 3-0 win over Blues at Layer Road earlier on in that memorable inaugural Championship season.

Adam Barrett’s mishap at the Community Stadium in front of the Sky Sports TV cameras back in 2010 is still talked about by Colchester fans, as is their Boxing Day triumph at Roots Hall, the previous season.

Southend fans will no doubt have their own special memories of their side’s magic moments against their county rivals, too.

It has been more than five years since Colchester fans have been able to attend an Essex derby.

And with it sadly looking like at least one of the county’s professional football clubs will drop out of the league, it appears that wait will go on.

Rivalries aside, that is a real pity.