LITTLE Oakley boss Matt Carmichael believes his side will be “massive underdogs” in their festive showdown against arch rivals Harwich and Parkeston.

A bumper crowd is expected when the Thurlow Nunn League neighbours meet at the Memorial Ground on Boxing Day (kick-off 11am).

Oakley have enjoyed back-to-back wins – keeping clean sheets in both – and are unbeaten in three division one south fixtures.

The Shrimpers, meanwhile, have won six in a row, plundering 21 goals, and not suffered defeat since October 13.

Both sides have games this weekend – Oakley host Newbury Forest while Harwich go to leaders White Ensign.

However, all eyes are already on next week’s derby, with a crowd of several hundred expected.

“We’re looking forward to all our Christmas fixtures but, of course, everyone is talking about Boxing Day,” said Carmichael.

“If we’re brutally honest, we start as massive underdogs.

“Harwich are the form side in the division and, based on recent results, the best team in the league.

“They’re playing well, they’ve recruited well and they’ve been together as a group longer than we have.

"They’re the benchmark we must aspire to and I’m pleased to see them doing so well.

“They’re a club I have a lot of affection for, having spent so much of my playing career there and also managed the club.

“I’m sure emotions will run high for the first 20 minutes.

“There’s bound to be a bit of friendly needle and nervous energy as the majority of the players know each other.

“Then, hopefully, it’ll settle down and we’ll see two good step six sides trying to out-think and outplay each other.

“To be honest, I’ve never been one to get too caught up in derby matches.

“We know it’ll be tough but then so will Saturday’s match at Newbury Forest and the fixture against Holland on the 29th.

“I just want to stretch our unbeaten run from three games to six and it doesn’t matter who those points come against.

“It’s about beating the sides in front of you, whoever they may be.”

Carmichael has great respect for Shrimpers boss Kieron Shelley and his assistant, Mike Wallace.

He believes the pair have been a breath of fresh air and are doing a great job rejuvenating the Royal Oak side.

“I really like Kieron and Mike,” he said.

“I’ve got a lot of time for them and am glad they’re doing so well.

"It needed people like them to come in with a slightly different outlook, rather than someone with a Harwich background; someone trying to recapture something that’s been and gone or harking back to the days of playing in front of 500 or 600 people.

“They’re building their own legacy and, for me, it’s great having two successful clubs in the area.

“It’s healthy competition and hopefully both continue going from strength to strength in 2019.”

Oakley, 11th in the table, sunk Lopes Tavares 4-0 on Saturday.

All the goals came in the second half, scored by Harry Mann (two), Joss Neale and Cameron Wallace.

“We defended well in very difficult conditions during the first half, if anything having the better chances,” added Carmichael.

“But after the break it was a question of when, not if, the goals would come.

"We had the wind behind us and the first goal was always likely to come from a set-piece.”