BRAINTREE Town chairman Lee Harding is hoping that Christmas 2017 brings some further joy to top up his personal stash of “fond memories” of facing Chelmsford City.

The Iron and the Clarets are meeting twice over the festive period, with the Essex rivals going head-to-head for the first time since February 2011 when they clash in a mouthwatering derby at the IronmongeryDirect Stadium on Boxing Day.

That Vanarama National League South encounter, which comes after Saturday’s trip to face leaders Dartford, will then be followed by the return fixture at Melbourne Park in Chelmsford on New Year’s Day.

And while local pride will be uppermost in most fans’ thoughts, the fact that both clubs find themselves at the heart of the promotion race is adding further spice to an intriguing pair of games.

The last time the Iron faced their rivals on home turf was in the 2010/11 season, when they beat them 3-0 with a Sean Marks brace and an Adam Bailey-Dennis strike on their way to winning the Blue Square Bet South title that year.

And Harding is hoping for further good cheer on Boxing Day (kick-off 3pm).

“It’s a game we have been looking forward to since the last time that we played them,” said the Iron chairman.

“They are one of our local rivals and winning the Ryman title at Chelmsford in 2006 always stands out as a good moment in my time at this club.

“We have fond memories of facing Chelmsford and we’re looking forward to this one.”

However, before all thoughts turn to the Clarets, there is an equally big game occupying the thoughts of Braintree manager Brad Quinton and his players.

They kick-off their Christmas action with a trip to Dartford - the side they are sharing the Vanarama National League South lead with at the moment - on Saturday.

Added to the back-to-back games against Chelmsford, it is a tough festive run that the Iron have been handed and Harding knows a good points haul from the three games will set them up to push on in second half of the season.

He added: “It is a testing run of games and you’d hope to pick up more points than you lose.

“If we can do that, then I think it will set us up nicely for the New Year.

“If, however, we only pick up a point or two from the next four games then that would be a reality check.

“But we head into it being at the halfway point of the season with 38 points on the board from 20 games and that’s only just below the two points per game target that I believe would be title-winning form over the whole season.

“They are interesting games we have coming up and I think the one at Dartford on Saturday is going to be a humdinger.

“I think back to when we played them at the start of the season and but for a very tight offside decision, we would have been 3-0 up against them.

“We ran out of gas at the end and they nicked two to get the draw, but had we got the third goal, I think we’d now be on 40 points out front and they would have 37.

“However, had you said back then that we’d have a chance to be top at Christmas, then I think you’d have said ‘that’s not too bad’.”