Of the many local rivalries in Welsh football, few are as eagerly anticipated or as well-supported as the Flintshire derby.
Since Holywell Town’s return to the Cymru Alliance two seasons ago, their clashes with Flint Town United have become one of the standout fixtures of the Welsh second tier.
With less than six miles separating the two clubs, the fixture has attracted crowds of 800-plus with ardent support for both teams.
The latest offering, an absorbing 3-3 draw at Halkyn Road in midweek, showcased some breathless attacking football with Flint clawing back a two-goal deficit to salvage a point.
On the derby’s enduring appeal, Wellmen manager John Haseldin said: “It's a massive game and it’s the one you look out for when the fixtures are published at the start of a season.
“A lot of our boys were at Flint when they were younger so it means a lot to them.
“Our team here is more local-based and always has been. There’s a couple of lads from outside the area but I think 70 per cent of the squad have been with us three or four years or a bit longer and they’re the ones you look to in these sort of games to give you a bit of edge.
“I’ve captained both Flint and Holywell as a player, so I’ve seen both sides of it. These are the types of game where you have to put your confidence in the players and they’ve got to deliver and be fighting for every ball and Flint are exactly the same.
“And I think all of the players know what it means to the supporters as well – we both get good followings, us especially, and they’ve really got behind us over the last few years, so they are big games for everyone concerned.”
Flint’s assistant coach Aden Shannon has been with the Silkmen for several seasons and relishes locking horns with their neighbours.
He said: “These games are huge. They mean so much to the club, to the fans and to the players and I’ve been trying to get that across to the lads who are new to the club and letting them know exactly what it means to everybody.
“There was a great rivalry between the two clubs last year. It was great fun to have that rivalry with John and his players and it can be a good battle over the course of a season not just in these derby games.
“It’s about bragging rights and big crowds with about 800 here last year. The Holywell and the Flint fans are both great and always back their club in big numbers, which is always good to see.”
Critics of the Welsh Premier League often lament the top-tier’s predictability and the continual domination of The New Saints.
Conversely, this season’s Cymru Alliance title looks set to be fiercely contested with the likes of Rhyl, Airbus and Caernarfon Town as well as Holywell and Flint all vying for honours.
Since gaining promotion to the second-tier in 2016, Holywell have achieved impressive top five finishes and have placed above Flint on both occasions, which is no mean feat.
Haseldin said: “It’s an achievement in itself. Flint have been in the league for a long time and financially they are much stronger than us.
“They’re aiming for the Welsh Premier, while our ambition for now is to stay with the big boys in this league and to keep progressing season by season.
“Hopefully over time we can get ourselves in a position when we are serious title challengers. I think that in a lot of the pre-season media reports we didn’t really get a mention, but in time we’ll get to the level where we’re taken more seriously.”