IF there was an ideal preparation ahead of tonight’s long-awaited derby, it was eight goals scored between Spalding United and Holbeach United on Saturday.
The Tulips smashed Desborough Town 5-0 – just seven days after hammering Irchester 7-0.
And at Carter’s Park, Holbeach put a couple of defeats firmly behind them with a 3-0 success over S&L Corby.
The wins had both managers licking their lips ahead of the first Tulips v Tigers league derby for eight years (Sir Halley Stewart Plating Field, 7.45pm).
Tulips boss Stanhope said: “It will be very tough.
“Holbeach have assembled a very good squad and I’m expecting a tight game.”
Opposite number John Chand was also keen to pay respect to the strength of opposition, which includes ex-Tigers Simon Mowbray, who moved during the summer, and defender Danny Hussey – both good friends of the Holbeach boss.
Chand said: “I think it will be a typical local derby, although not as physical as our match at Boston Town. Spalding do like to play football so I’m expecting a good game.
“Whatever happens, final league standings are not decided in September, they are decided in April.
“We’ll approach this match the same way as any other but it’s nice that there has been some hype about it because it should produce a good crowd with a great atmosphere.”
However, the match will have to go some way to reproducing the crackling atmosphere the last time the teams met in the league in November 2003.
The crowd topped 800 – a then UCL record – as Dick Creasey returned to Carter’s Park with Spalding United, just six months after leading the Tigers to their last title success. He masterminded a 2-1 win.
Just a month earlier, Stanhope – who had followed Creasey to the Tulips that summer – was on target as Spalding won 2-0 at the Sir Halley Stewart Playing Field. They went on to win the championship.
Meanwhile, Stanhope believes the current squad is now starting to kick into life properly.
Striker Greg Smith has proved a welcome addition to a previously misfiring squad. Two more goals – a header and a penalty – last Saturday takes his tally to seven in three matches.
Mowbray notched twice but fluffed the chance of grabbing a hat-trick when he had a second-half penalty saved. But Jammal Shahin slammed in the rebound as the Tulips kept the goals rolling in while keeping tight at the back for the second consecutive match.
Stanhope said: “Greg has done very well for us. He’s probably got more skill than people would imagine for a player of his size and he’s added a bit of strength to us.”
He added: “The team more or less picks itself for the Holbeach game. There might be one or two changes.”
Meanwhile, Chand was happy his charges put a “disappointing” defeat to Peterborough Northern Star behind them with a comfortable despatch of S&L.
Defender and captain Jamie Stevens swept home a loose ball at a corner to put them ahead and Ashley Stevens had time to pick his spot for 2-0 thanks to Adam Jackson’s lovely through ball.
Andrew Tidswell wrapped up the scoring with a header from a corner delivered by Tommy Treacher, who Chand picked out for praise.
The Tulips are at full strength tonight; the Tigers are without Matt Warfield, who has missed most of the season with a leg problem.
A crowd in excess of 300 is anticipated so spectators are advised to arrive early.