More than just local bragging rights are on the line tonight as Spalding United host rivals Holbeach United in the semi final of the Lincs FA Senior Trophy (7.45pm).
The winners of the second ‘South Holland clasico’ of the season will progress to a final against either Barton Town or Bottesford Town at Lincoln City’s Sincil Bank.
With the Tigers and Tulips embroiled in a UCL Premier Division title race and on a collision course in the UCL Cup, tonight’s tussle will provide the winner with a huge amount of momentum.
For holders Holbeach, who beat Barton 2-0 in last year’s final, sealing a first league title in a decade remains the priority.
Boss John Chand admits he’d rest players if the last four duel was against anybody else, with a vitally important home date with title rivals Quorn this weekend.
But he told the Lincolnshire Free Press that he owes the club’s loyal fans a full-strength side.
“In terms of the season, Saturday is the bigger game,” said Chand. “But this is Spalding against Holbeach and the local interest is very high.
“We’ve fielded weakened sides in earlier rounds against Deeping and Bourne – and are perhaps lucky to have got this far. This competition wasn’t really a priority for us.
“But it’d be wrong of me to disrespect the history of this fixture and the fans deserve to see the strongest possible Holbeach side we can field.
“Obviously another trip to Lincoln City is a big carrot for us and we’re keen to defend our title.
“Spalding obviously have a big game this weekend too, so we’re in the same boat.”
Indeed, the derby is the second part of a potentially season-defining week for the Tulips. It started with Saturday’s impressive 4-1 league win at Newport Pagnell and ends with a massive FA Vase fifth round home tie against Guernsey this Saturday (3pm).
Spalding supremo Pat Rayment wants to right the wrongs of his team’s 2-1 Boxing Day defeat at Carter’s Park as they bid to strike a blow to Holbeach’s collective confidence.
He said: “Every game is important. Yes, Saturday is the biggest game of our season, but playing Holbeach is big for the punters.
“We need to match their work ethic and defend properly, both of those areas let us down on Boxing Day. We’re missing a few players, but have great strength in depth.
“The rivalry is healthy for the area and this season we’re both flying the flag high for South Holland.
“Win and we’ve got a decent final to look forward to – and maybe we’ll gain momentum ahead of the next league meeting which could be a massive match.”
Holbeach are likely to be without Andrew Tidswell, Rob Hughes, Ben Brown, Ash Stevens and Wes Lewis, while Spalding have Lee Beeson, Tony Battersby and Gary King are cup tied.
Follow @LFPSport on Twitter for live updates on the derby clash, which has to be decided on the night. If the scores are level at 90 minutes, there will be penalties.