LITTLE OAKLEY climbed to the top of Thurlow Nunn League first division south after fighting back from behind to sink neighbours HARWICH AND PARKESTON 3-1.

The sides met in a hard-fought and entertaining derby at the Gwinnell and Sons Royal Oak on Saturday afternoon.

Hosts Harwich made a dream start after taking an early lead through Ryan McGibbon.

But after Rory Harman was red-carded just before half-time, Oakley took full advantage.

Greg Rodger quickly equalised before Harry Mann and substitute Danny Garrad put the Acorns in control, helping them to a precious victory that saw them leapfrog previous leaders Lopes Tavares.

Oakley now have a point more than their title rivals, who have three games in hand.

A bumper crowd of 620 flocked to the Oak and those with a Harwich allegiance were soon celebrating after a wonderful fourth-minute opener from McGibbon.

After being allowed to run at the Oakley defence, the talented midfielder unleashed a powerful long-range effort that flew into the top right-hand corner, past the despairing fingertips of keeper Dan Joyce.

The Acorns nearly equalised straight away but were denied by a top-drawer save from Sam Felgate, hurling himself to claw away a header from Jordan Heath.

Clacton and Frinton Gazette:

There was little between the sides for the remainder of the first half - although Jake Plane's dipping volley was only inches over Joyce's bar - but a flashpoint just before the interval tipped the scales firmly in Oakley's favour.

Right-back Harman reacted angrily to a challenge by Heath and was given his marching orders for violent conduct by referee Nathan Oakes.

Almost immediately, the Acorns attacked down the side he would have been defending and Mann's low cross presented a simple far-post tap-in for Rodger.

With their numerical advantage, Oakley looked the more likely winners in the second period and they nosed ahead on the hour-mark after a clinical finish from Mann.

The striker connected with a precise pass into the box and fired across goal inside the far post.

Substitute Garrad then made the points safe, drilling home after a right-wing cross was punched clear by Felgate.

The Harwich keeper came to his side's rescue twice in quick succession during the dying embers of the game, making stunning saves to deny Mann and Garrad.

Clacton and Frinton Gazette:

Elsewhere in first division south, COGGESHALL UNITED ran out 2-0 winners at HALSTEAD TOWN, thanks to goals from Kieron Bailey and Kris Oti.

WIVENHOE TOWN suffered a 4-2 defeat at Hackney Wick - despite being two-up at the break thanks to a double from Matt Tapley - while BRIGHTLINGSEA REGENT RESERVES lost 4-1 at home to Benfleet.

In the premier division, north Essex neighbours FC CLACTON and STANWAY ROVERS shared the spoils from a goalless draw while BRANTHAM ATHLETIC won 2-0 at Hadleigh United, thanks to two first-half goals from Harrison Bacon.