‘A MATCH they can not afford to lose’ is how Long Melford manager Jason Maher described the upcoming festive derby visit of rivals Cornard United to Stoneylands on Tuesday (1pm), writes Sam Murley.
The Villagers have been on a torrid run of form of late which included a 2-1 loss to Debenham LC at home on December 10 — a fifth straight league defeat in the Ridgeons League First Division.
A visit of their struggling neighbours could be seen by most as the perfect Christmas present to help halt their worrying form. But after a 3-2 defeat to Cornard last season resulted in former manager Geoff Cleal’s dismissal, Maher is fully aware of the consequences of losing on derby day as he looks to get to winning ways.
“It is about local pride and bragging rights and my players will be wanting to go out to get the win, no question,” he said.
“As soon as the fixtures are announced you look for the derby matches and it is one you cannot afford to lose.
“No matter what level of football you play in, you want to win those derby games more than any other.
“Because of our poor form there is certainly more pressure on the game but derby matches are all about controlling your emotions and keeping a calm head, it will certainly be an interesting match.
“If we can get a win, especially in the derby, it will improve morale and the whole club will have a different feel.”
Like their rivals, Cornard are currently in the middle of a slump in form and have lost their last four league matches including Saturday’s 2-0 defeat away to Downham Town.
The club sit just one place above bottom side Stowmarket Town and although the manager is aware defeat on Tuesday could leave them propping up the rest of the division, he is looking forward to the derby-day clash.
“We need a win otherwise we could find ourselves in the relegation zone and that is something we have got to avoid,” he added.
“I have warned the players about the consequences of falling into the relegation zone so hopefully they will take notice.
“It is a big local derby and they always attract the best crowds, so we are definitely looking forward to it.”