Aylesbury United will welcome local rivals Aylesbury FC to Bells Close on New Year’s Day for the first league derby between the two this season.
FC go into Thursday’s encounter on the back of six straight league wins with Steve Bateman’s side up to second in the Division One Central table, while United, who are 12th, have also enjoyed an upturn in form in recent weeks and they will be hoping to prolong their four-game unbeaten run.
The Moles have won all three competitive meetings between the two sides, including this season’s 3-2 FA Cup win back in August, but Tony Joyce hopes his side will use that as motivation this week.
He said: “We go into the game as underdogs as they’re flying high in second but we’ve turned it around recently and that has given us confidence.
“We’ll have our captain Jack Wood back, as well as Stacey Field, which is a bonus as both are key players and were missed at the weekend, so we’re almost at full strength.
“The FA Cup game was disappointing. We were 2-1 up and ended up losing 3-2, which wasn’t good for morale and I’ll be reminding the players of that before Thursday’s game.”
Moles boss Bateman said: “We’ll go into the game confident but no more confident than we do any other game. I’m expecting it to be our hardest game of the season to date because they’ll desperately want to avenge the FA Cup defeat.
“We’ve come out on top against them in every game so far but you’d think that’ll change at some point – I just hope it’s not on Thursday! But if we play to the standard we have been, I expect we’ll have enough to get the job done.
“Tony will want to get one over on me because we go back a long way and I always enjoy putting a side out against him, so I’m looking forward to it – I just hope we get a decent crowd and the two teams put on a good spectacle.”
On Saturday, a late strike from Mark Bunker denied Aylesbury United all three points against Leighton Town.
The Ducks named goalkeeper Tahj Bell, on a short-term loan from Hitchin Town, in the starting line-up, and it was United who began brightest with Paul Edgeworth, Steve Hatch and Lewis Putman all wasting good chances early on.
Leighton came back and went ahead through Bunker’s 41st minute strike, but a fired-up United needed just seven minutes of the second half to level when Hatch hammered home from a free-kick.
Moments later, Aylesbury were ahead as Blackett was taken down and the ever-reliable Edgeworth stepped up to rifle in the penalty and his 75th goal for the club.
The Ducks looked on course for victory, with Bell producing a superb save to deny Ashley Farmer’s low shot, only for Bunker to score from the resulting corner and snatch a dramatic late point.
Following Thursday’s derby, United travel to Uxbridge on Saturday for another league encounter, while FC entertain Daventry Town.