BRIGHTLINGSEA Regent boss Tom Rothery says his players will relish the challenge of tonight’s showdown against big-spending Billericay Town.

The Essex sides are set to meet in an eagerly-anticipated Bostik League premier division clash at the Taydal Stadium (kick-off 7.45pm).

It is the middle fixture in a testing week for the R’s, having lost 2-1 at leaders Dulwich Hamlet at the weekend and with a home date against third-placed Staines Town looming on Saturday.

However, Rothery thrives on the big-match occasion and believes his players can go toe-to-toe with Billericay tonight.

“We’re realistic and know it’ll be tough but it’s a game we’re looking forward to,” he said.

“I think it’s great what’s happening at Billericay.

“People can knock them because they’re jealous but, for me, it can only be a good thing because they’ve created a buzz around non-league in Essex.

“Good luck to them.

“Our crowd will probably double tonight and who would have thought a player like Jermaine Pennant - someone who’s played in a Champions League final - would be coming to North Road.

“It’s unthinkable but we’re an ambitious group and we thrive on challenges like this.

“It drives you on and everyone here - the players, management and supporters - has been looking forward to this fixture for a while.

“The bigger the game, the better as far as I’m concerned.

“You want to perform in pressurised situations and I still feel we can be very competitive in this league.

"Are we going to be up the top of the table with sides like Dulwich, Billericay and Staines? Obviously not.

“However, I still feel that on any given day we can cause problems for top sides, especially at home.”

Regent are 13th in the table following Saturday’s 2-1 defeat at Dulwich.

After finding themselves two-down, Ricky Griggs reduced the arrears just before half-time.

However, the R’s were unable to get back on level terms despite an excellent second-half performance.

“We found it hard to get forward in the first half on Saturday,” said Rothery.

“We had our backs to the wall, conceded a harsh penalty and then gave away a soft second goal, after losing the ball cheaply.

“However, we changed our shape at half-time and had Dulwich on the back foot in the second period. Not many sides will do that this season.

“Their keeper made two or three really good saves and we hit the top of the net and the side-netting.

“I hate losing but took a lot of satisfaction from the way we played against a very good, established side at this level.

“We deserved something from the game - even their supporters admitted that afterwards - and in no way has our confidence been dented by the result.

“Instead, we can take heart and belief from the fact we can compete with top sides in our division.”

Regent have a fully-fit squad for tonight’s game.

Elsewhere, in Bostik League division north, MALDON AND TIPTREE entertain AFC Sudbury while HEYBRIDGE SWIFTS are away to Cheshunt.