ECCLESHILL United boss Lee Elam is looking forward to a Boxing Day derby at Thackley and warned that confidence is still high in the Eagles’ camp, despite a long break.

United picked up 10 points from their final five Northern Counties East League Premier Division games before the national lockdown at the start of November to climb up to mid-table, but have only played friendlies against higher-tier Brighouse Town and Ossett United since.

But they beat Brig and drew with Ossett, so ahead of their return to league action against the Dennyboys, Elam said: “I’d say the momentum is still there.

“We kept speaking throughout the lockdown, then we were able to have a few training sessions before those friendlies.

“The confidence is there and we built well in those last few matches before lockdown, so hopefully we can kick on now.”

Looking ahead to Thackley, Elam said: “It should be a good game. It’s a big one locally, and we really want to beat each other.

“Hopefully there’ll be a few more fans than normal turn up, and they’ll get to see mostly local lads playing. It should be a good atmosphere.”

There was a debate over when the game should be played, with Thackley not wanting it to go ahead on Boxing Day due to then-Covid rules allowing people to see family from other households between December 23 and December 27.

Explaining why Eccleshill stood firm and wanted to play tomorrow, Elam said: “They wanted to move it to a fair bit later than scheduled, four or five days, and we felt it would have seen fixtures backlogged and it would have affected our game next Saturday.

“I put Thackley’s suggestion to my players, but they wanted to play on Boxing Day, and so did I, as it wouldn’t have helped us having another five days to wait.

“We didn’t want to have to wait nearly two weeks longer than everyone else for a match.”

The Eagles’ last league game was on November 3, a 3-2 win at Silsden.

They did not return last weekend like the vast majority of NCEL teams, as scheduled opponents Liversedge were in FA Vase action.

Elam said: “We would have liked to get back to competitive action last week, as we finished on that good run before lockdown, but Sedge were in the FA Vase, so there’s nothing we could do.

“The friendlies against Brighouse and Ossett went all right though. I got to use all the players and we got a bit of confidence from the performances.

“I brought David Bayoh into the fold from the youth team too, who’s only 18.

“He played his part in both of those games and he’ll be involved against Thackley on Boxing Day too.”