HARWICH and Parkeston manager Mike Wallace believes football fans in the area will relish and embrace tonight's mouthwatering cup semi-final against Little Oakley.

The neighbours are set to meet in the last four of the First Division Knockout Cup, at the Gwinnell & Sons Royal Oak (kick-off 7.45pm).

A bumper crowd is expected, for the sides' second meeting of the season.

Oakley won 3-1 at Harwich in a league showdown just after Christmas and the return match at the Memorial Ground is scheduled for April 13.

Wallace is looking forward to tonight's showdown and said: "I'm delighted for our club, chairman (Tony Armstrong) and all connected with Harwich.

"It’s great to be at home and a bonus game that will be brilliant for the club, on and off the pitch.

"I'm also delighted for the fans of both clubs.

"I know how much they'll embrace the derby nature of the game and get behind their teams.

"From our point of view, I feel our supporters deserve this night for the backing they've given us this season.

"I've always had a good relationship with the Oakley fans, too, and enjoying watching games at the Memorial Ground.

"I'm expecting nothing else for this game and know they'll be out in force, so having this semi-final can only be a good thing for the town and area.

"It’s one we all need to enjoy.

"Both teams know each other and know each other’s strengths and weaknesses, so there will be no hiding place come kick-off time.

"I'll be telling the lads to enjoy it and play with freedom, because if you can’t enjoy a cup semi-final then when can you enjoy it?"

Harwich warmed up for tonight's game with an important 2-1 victory at struggling Fire United, on Saturday.

Wallace admitted it was a poor match but credited his team for getting the job done.

Fire started with only ten players for the first six minutes.

Sean Bartlett's well-taken shot gave the visitors an eighth-minute lead.

Fire were reduced to ten men when one of their players was red-carded in the 22nd minute.

Five minutes into the second half, Hayden Dutch pounced on a dropped ball by the goalkeeper to tap home Harwich's second.

The Shrimpers had a good opportunity to go three-up but saw a penalty easily saved.

Fire then pulled one back in the latter stages before a player from each side was sent off, following an off-the-ball incident.

"The lads have been brilliant since I took over and tonight is for them to go out and play with freedom and no pressure," added Wallace.

"Obviously, we want to win and will be doing everything to win - something the lads have done every week.

"However, the result tonight will not define our season."

Oakley had been due to visit Wivenhoe Town's Blackstone Stadium on Saturday.

However, the derby was postponed and has now been rearranged for March 24.

"Another weekend off was frustrating for us all," said Acorns manager Matt Carmichael.

"Fortunately, though, we would have had some big players missing on Saturday.

"It gives us a chance to get some back for the tough run of games coming up, so maybe lady luck is helping us out."