History Boys: Melton Town and Holwell Sports managers preview first-ever league derby

Holwell Sports manager Neil Miller looks on as his side slip to a fourth straight defeat EMN-180412-093515002
Holwell Sports manager Neil Miller looks on as his side slip to a fourth straight defeat EMN-180412-093515002
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Anticipation has been building as Melton Town and Holwell Sports finally meet in league competition for the first time this weekend.

The fortunes of both teams have contrasted sharply this season; Holwell lie in the bottom three as they make the short trip to Signright Park to take on a Town side who are fourth in United Counties League Division One.

Town co-manager Tom Manship took over in the summer with Jon Stevenson EMN-180612-170024002

Town co-manager Tom Manship took over in the summer with Jon Stevenson EMN-180612-170024002

But both managers believe that form, and league position, will count for little when the whistle blows for only the third meeting between the sides in the last decade.

Melton co-manager Tom Manship said: “Holwell have a lot of local players and it will mean a lot to them.

“League form does not count in derbies, it’s a totally different occasion.

“I have played a few and they aren’t easy. They’re great for spectators, but not so much if you’re involved.

The personnel has changed a lot since this cup meeting two years ago EMN-180612-170148002

The personnel has changed a lot since this cup meeting two years ago EMN-180612-170148002

“Players are not going to be allowed much time on the ball.”

Holwell boss Neil Miller added: “As a game it’s fantastic for the town, and what the town has needed for a long time, but if you are professional enough you can treat it as another game.

“We don’t want to show them too much respect or be overawed by the occasion,”

With Melton’s crowds on the up since their summer takeover, a record attendance is expected as the rare derby clash stirs the interest of the town’s wider football community.

Melton have traditionally played second fiddle to Holwell in recent years, playing lower down the football pyramid than their rivals from Asfordby Hill.

But the balance of power has slowly shifted in recent seasons.

In 2016/17, Melton joined Holwell on step six of the non-league ladder, in the United Counties League, while Sports plied their trade in the East Midlands Counties League.

And an FA league restructure last summer sent Holwell into the UCL and set up the eagerly-awaited fixture.

Miller said: “It’s great for the town to have two teams in the UCL. I guess Melton’s priorities and vision are different to ours and we are a work in progress.

“We are well aware of Melton’s quality; they play great football, pleasing on the eye and create a lot of chances, but we have to focus on ourselves.

“We are not there to make up the numbers; we are Holwell Sports and we have been at step six for a long time.”

Manship said he would not be underestimating the challenge despite the teams’ contrasting fortunes.

“It’s going to be a big occasion for the town and hopefully both sets of supporters will come out to support the teams,” he said.

“It’s big for the club, but as a manager I take it as another game, And it will be one of our toughest.”

Both sides have hit an indifferent run of form in recent weeks.

After two wins from his opening three games in charge, Miller has seen his Holwell side sink into the bottom three after four straight defeats.

But he insists the hard work going on behind the scenes is beginning to pay off.

Miller explained: “We have come up against good sides in Lutterworth and Northampton Sileby Rangers and we haven’t been a million miles away, despite what the scorelines said.

“We have to learn from our mistakes; we are staying switched on for 75 minutes and doing well, but those 15 minutes where we switch off are costing us.

“We just need to make sure we don’t turn the small things that are going against us into mountains. We need to stay focussed and united and we are.”

Melton’s promotion prospects have also taken a dip with their first back-to-back league defeats of the season in a league that is becoming increasingly competitive.

But Manship has emphasised that growing the club off the pitch is still his priority, and Saturday will be the perfect chance to showcase how far they have come.

“We have had a very difficult run. We had a quarter-final against local opposition, we have played teams from the too six in our last four league games, and Holwell is not going to be any easier.

“The main objective is still moving the club forward in terms of players, facilities and backing; the results are a bonus.

“If we finished top and only five people were coming to watch, it wouldn’t mean anything.”