Nelson FC boss Mark Fell believes the “Pendle Clasico” derby is bigger than it’s ever been.
The Blues tangle with rivals Colne this evening with kick-off at 7-45 pm at Victoria Park.
The two sides last met under the floodlights at Little Wembley in October 2013 when a late Ritchie Allen double saw the hosts overturn a 3-1 deficit to win 4-3 and advance to the second round of the Lancashire FA Challenge Trophy.
Tonight is the first time the pair have met in a league fixture on Lomeshaye Way since December 2009, with Colne running out 3-0 winners on that occasion in the North West Counties Premier Division.
With Steve Cunningham’s Reds having come out on top three months ago, with Danny Boyle and Chris Anderson securing victory at the XLCR Stadium, Fell said: “It’s about as big as it comes.
“It’s sort of developed in to a bigger derby than it’s ever been before because there’s two progressive football clubs heading in the right direction. That certainly adds a bit of spice to it.
It’s about as big as it comesMark Fell - Nelson manager
“The first game was massively well attended so we hope it’s the same this time round. It should be a very entertaining game. I’m convinced it’s going to be a full on, full blooded game of football.”
Fell, whose side sits eighth in the table, added: “We’ll be a different proposition to the team that played Colne over Christmas.
“George Melling, Ben Hoskin, Peter Wright and Matty O’Neill didn’t play and we hadn’t signed Kieran Walmsley at that point either.
“We’ll go in to the game as underdogs even though we’re at home but we’re a different side.
“It’s going to be great to get a derby on under the lights. It’s going to be a proper derby; it’s as tasty as it gets. Everybody’s looking forward to it.
“I’m hoping people come to support local football. It will be a great spectacle with two teams flying the flag for East Lancashire at the moment. Both teams are playing exciting, attacking football.
“The lads are chomping at the bit. They want to give a response from the defeat earlier in the season. We’re confident.”
Meanwhile, Colne boss Steve Cunningham may have been having a few sleepless nights ahead of the highly anticipated clash.
That’s not necessarily down to tonight’s opposition, but because wife Caroline recently gave birth to the couple’s second child.
In the aftermath of Colne’s ninth successive triumph against Runcorn Town at Sandy Lane, daughter Maizie Jane would eventually be delivered in the front seat of Cunningham’s black Mercedes outside Burnley General Hospital.
The Reds boss, who has a four-year-old son called Zak, returned as his side extended their winning streak in to double figures as former Clarets defender Alex Coleman netted in the 66th minute against West Didsbury and Chorlton at the Recreation Ground.
“Football has been amazing recently,” he said. “To win 10 games on the bounce was a great achievement. It’s a club record and now I’m targeting a total points record come the end of the season.
“This season has set us up for next year anyway. We’ve got a few players in demand and Ramsbottom United have been in for Alex Coleman, Simon Nangle and Chris Anderson.
“There’s teams sniffing around Danny Boyle and Joe Garvin as well. It’s all credit to the club and it’s a sign of our success.”
That purple patch was brought to a halt midweek when Ashton Athletic secured a 3-2 win at Brocstedes Park. Luke Holden gave the hosts the lead in the second minute, though Joe Garvin equalised just minutes later.
Paul Watson restored the lead for the home side with 12 minutes gone before Adam Gilchrist extended the cushion seven minutes before the interval. Boyle responded after the break to take his tally to 33 in all competitions this term, but it wasn’t enough on this occasion.
Ahead of the derby, Cunningham said:”It’s a big game on Friday against Nelson. We want to prove that we’re the top local team. If we beat Nelson then we’ve done the double over our biggest rivals. We want to be the best team in the local area at this level.
“I think Nelson have learnt a few lessons this year and I think they’ll do well next year but it’s going to be a tough league again. They are going to want to beat us and halt our recent run of form. I’m looking forward to it and I really want to beat them.”