LITTLE Oakley manager Matt Carmichael felt his side were worthy winners in their festive derby at Harwich and Parkeston - and always felt confident they would bounce back from a sluggish start.

The Acorns fell behind inside five minutes of the Thurlow Nunn League first division south showdown at the Gwinnell and Sons Royal Oak on Saturday.

However, when their hosts were reduced to ten men, they stepped up a gear and raced to victory thanks to goals from Greg Rodger, Harry Mann and Danny Garrad.

It was a precious win that took them to the top of the table, replacing inactive previous leaders Lopes Tavares.

And Carmichael felt his side deserved maximum points, largely based on their second-half performance and the chances they created.

"Harwich gave a really good account of themselves," he said.

"We hadn't played for a few weeks and it showed early on.

"But regardless of the fact we were up against ten men, I thought we were the better side quality-wise.

"We played the most football and their goalkeeper made the most saves.

"If you weigh it up on chances, we definitely deserved to win.

"We knew there would be a flashpoint for them (referring to Rory Harman's sending-off).

"It was something we spoke about in our team talk and although it wasn't a case of targeting anyone, we knew that at some point one of them would see red, especially when we saw the line-up and where certain players were playing.

"We changed our formation slightly to try and get at their full-backs and, apart from their goal, I can't remember them having too many shots.

"There wasn't a great deal for us to do defensively.

"We won our headers and cleared our lines, but we just didn't have a great deal of quality when we needed it in the first half.

"We changed it slightly, bringing Greg (Rodger) into the middle of the pitch, and I think that changed the game.

"He started threading balls into areas they couldn't defend and Harry Mann came alive, forcing two great saves and scoring a goal. That's what good strikers do at any level.

"If you give him a chance, he'll take it and that's all we can ask for. He's been really good this season."

A bumper crowd of 620 turned up for Saturday's derby, creating a special atmosphere for both teams to relish.

Carmichael felt it showed the interest in non-league football and was a credit to the Harwich area.

"There was a great atmosphere," he said.

"Both sets of fans were loud and regardless of the result, it was great for Harwich to get 600 people through the gate. We know that at this level that's vital to survive.

"The town turned out to support the teams and credit to the local football scene.

"I tip my hat and say well done to those that came along, because it's a big ask at this time of year when people are having family time and have maybe spent hard in the run-up to Christmas.

"Both sets of players gave their all but in the end we were just too good."

Oakley have no game this weekend and return to action at Wormley Rovers next Saturday.