FOOTBALL: Mutual respect ahead of ‘clasico’

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Rarely in the history of South Holland’s biggest sporting rivarly has a derby match been more eagerly-anticapated than Holbeach United against Spalding United on Boxing Day.

The UCL Premier Division duo meet for the first ‘South Holland clasico’ of the season at Carter’s Park (3pm), with more than just bragging rights up for grabs this time around.

League leaders Holbeach go into the clash nine points clear at the summit – and a hefty 14 ahead of a Tulips team that are still likely to be the biggest threat to their hopes of a first title in a decade.

Tipped as favourites at the start of the season, Spalding are still rated by many as the team to beat and have four games in hand on the Tigers. And Tulips chief Pat Rayment reckons that Wednesday’s game could play a big part in the title race.

He said: “Football fans in this area couldn’t have asked for any more this season. It’s a massive game and great for the area.

“I’m going to disappoint you and play down the rivalry, though. It’s a huge game in the title race, but the nature of the opposition is irrelevant.

“The title won’t be decided, but momentum will be gained one way or another. I’d argue that we have the better team, but John Chand has done a wonderful job of assembling a fine side at Holbeach.”

With the Tigers’ side having a slightly more local feel than Spalding, their chief John Chand admits his players have had half an eye on the fixture for some time. But he doesn’t expect a repeat of the violence that marred Holbeach’s 3-2 win the last time the duo met.

He said: “What a great festive game for the fans. It’s a massive match really.

“We can really lay down a marker by beating them, but it’s a game they need to win more than we do. We’re in a great position and they’d find it hard to catch us if they lose.

“I’m not anticipating any trouble. Both of us are proper footballing teams and we head into the game in fine form.

“It’ll be a great game to watch and I hope there’s a big crowd.”

Follow @LFPSport on Twitter for live updates from all the festive fixtures.

We’ll have a report in Thursday’s Spalding Guardian and reaction on straight after the game.