The new year is set to begin with a bang – as Huntingdonshire’s two footballing heavyweights do battle on the first day of 2018.
St Ives Town entertain St Neots Town in a Southern League Premier Division derby at ProEdge Westwood Road on Monday, 3pm.
Providing the match gets the go-ahead following a 10.30am pitch inspection, a large crowd is anticipated for a first clash of the season between two teams who have experienced something of a role reversal.
Hosts St Ives are fighting for survival in their second Step 3 campaign while St Neots sit in the top half of the standings after an excellent opening half of Matt Clements’ first full campaign at the helm.
He guided them to safety last season after taking over a year ago, whereas St Ives were the top dogs last term as they finished comfortably in mid-table.
St Ives manager Ricky Marheineke said: “The two clubs have pretty much reversed positions in the space of 12 months.
“It is our turn to have a difficult season, but St Neots are showing us what is possible with the way they have made progress. Matt is doing a wonderful job there.
“We will definitely be underdogs on New Year’s Day, but anything can happen in a derby game when form goes out of the window.
“We know we can match any team in this division if performing well and it is essential we do that against a team having a great season.”
St Ives have enjoyed an excellent festive period with a December 23 success against fellow strugglers Gosport Borough being followed by a fine Boxing Day point at table-toppers King’s Lynn.
But St Neots chief Clements accepts his side will kick-off as favourites for derby glory, although he insists the Huntingdonshire showdown will be treated no differently to any other match.
“We’re in good form and are looking to maintain it,” said Clements. “We will go into the game at St Ives as favourites - I’m not going to lie about it.
“I’ve got a lot of respect for Ricky and have some good friends at St Ives, but the opposition is irrelevant in many ways.
“Our focus needs to be on our own performance just as it has been all season. If we get that right, we stand a good chance of getting something.
“It’s a local derby and the bragging rights add a bit of spice for the supporters, but it’s no different to any other game as far as I’m concerned.”
St Neots were beaten by title-chasers Kettering Town on Boxing Day, but that was just a second reverse in their last 13 league outings.
There are certainly no shortage of playing links between the two local clubs.
Six former St Neots men - Tim Trebes, Miles Smith, Peter Clark, Rogan McGeorge, Declan Rogers and Danny Watson - will feature in the St Ives squad tomorrow. Current St Neots players Liam McDevitt, Jack Bradshaw, Luke Knight, Scott Sinclair and Harry O’Malley are all ex-St Ives men - the latter three helping their former club to promotion in 2015/16.