LITTLE Oakley manager Matt Carmichael believes it’s a major achievement for his side just to be rubbing shoulders with neighbours Harwich and Parkeston.

The rivals are set to go head-to-head in an eagerly-awaited Thurlow Nunn League first division south derby at the Royal Oak on Easter Monday (kick-off 3pm).

Both teams can reflect on a successful season, with the Shrimpers having made an impressive return to step six football and Oakley seventh in the table with an excellent haul of 58 points from their 33 games.

Carmichael believes both sides’ performance this term should make for an eye-catching Bank Holiday showdown.

“Harwich are still a huge club in the non-league world,” said Carmichael.

“They have that reputation of being one of the oldest and most prestigious clubs in the county so for us - a small village club - to be going toe-to-toe with them is a great achievement.

“Both clubs have been run differently historically, so it proves both formulas work.

“Harwich have been excellent this season.

“They have a good blend of players and (Shrimpers boss) Kieron (Shelley) and (assistant) Mike (Wallace) deserve huge credit.

“I've said it before how much I respect those guys. They've done a great job.

“Kieron has got his boys ticking all season and that's our job - getting the best from our players, whether that's through coaching, motivation or man-management.

“They have my full admiration for that.

“On the day, we’ll have our tactical battle but afterwards we’ll share a beer.

“That's the way football should be and it's a game, first and foremost.”

The Acorns head into the derby on the back of a 2-0 defeat at Hackney Wick on Saturday.

While disappointed to lose, they look all but assured of a top-seven spot this season.

"The lads have been fantastic since I've been here,” added Carmichael.

“This season has always been about consolidation and stabilising.

“I feel we’ve surpassed all expectations, when you look at some of the big, big teams we’re in with – the likes of Halstead, Coggeshall, Harwich and Hashtag.

“On the whole, we’ve shown we belong in their company."

Oakley’s form under Carmichael has been impressive and the former Brantham Athletic manager recently completed his UEFA B coaching course, alongside incoming first-team coach Ben Swan.

“Going through the UEFA B has been a great journey,” said the Acorns boss.

“It's given me tools that I’ve slowly implemented this season.

“Having three UEFA B coaches – Ben, Mark Sharp and myself - at the club next season is going to be massive from a coaching point of view.

“Players will be getting some excellent coaching in training but also a lot more analysis and feedback from game days.”