Despite an extremely disciplined defensive and the return of Callum Smith, it was Matt Maclean’s goalscoring exploits that stole the show as Uckfield ousted three-time RUR Cup winners Newhaven in the competition’s Third Round, reports Will Hugall.
Following on from an invaluable 3-2 league win at Broadbridge Heath the weekend earlier, the Uckers made two changes, as Callum and Regan Smith were reintroduced, meaning Sam Cooper could return to central defence.
Recapturing the cup form that has already seen them to new records in the FA Cup and Vase this season, Uckfield began strongly at the ground of the 2016 and 2017 winners, as Ellis Cormack’s clean connection to a Dee Okojie corner forced the Dockers to clear off their line.
In just the 11th minute, this confidence was reflected in an opening goal. Bypassing his marker with a step-over, Okojie produced a fine cross for Callum Smith, who forced Jake Buss into a reaction stop before Matt Maclean hooked the rebound into the roof of the net.
Although Newhaven did recover, their wastefulness in possession was almost punished again as a point-blank Okojie finish was ruled out for offside, after Cormack scuffed a shot from Bailo Camara’s square into the six-yard box.
Just as the tempo appeared to slow, the Uckers clinically doubled their lead. In a flowing 38th minute move, Camara found Okojie with a cross-field ball, and Richie Welch held possession on the right wing before setting up Matt Rodrigues-Barbosa, whose cross swept in and met the unmarked Maclean, who needed only a glancing header to convert.
Before half-time, the away advantage may have been even greater, but for Buss’ outstretched leg to stop an outside-of-the-boot Smith shot from a quick counter-attack.
Tactically reformed at the restart, the hosts sought opportunities by stretching Uckfield defensive lines from wide, but were stalled on separate occasions by two perfectly timed Welch tackles, and Rogers’ quick judgement to rush out and clear a ball from Lee Robinson’s path.
As Robinson, the scorer of 32 Dockers goals since August, was eventually forced off after a collision with Rogers whilst the goalkeeper claimed a home free-kick, Newhaven hopes may have been considered void. In the 83rd minute, however, a lifeline came as Ian Robinson delivered a cross from the left, and Maclean unfortunately directed into his own net after an Uckers miscommunication.
Uckfield regrouped, however, and selfless coverage on all Newhaven threats closed out sights of Rogers’ goal until the final whistle, which confirmed the Uckers’ place in the Fourth Round to visit fellow SCFL Premier side Pagham.
This Saturday, the team make the trip to AFC Croydon Athletic in their first ever match at the Second Round stage of the FA Vase.
The tie kicks off at 3pm, and follows earlier victories in the competition against Hollands & Blair, Southwick and Tunbridge Wells.
All images Mike Skinner (Under difficult lighting!)
AFC Uckfield Town: Rogers, Rodrigues-Barbosa, R. Smith, Hickman-Smith, Cooper, Richie Welch (C), Okojie, Cormack, C. Smith (Norman, 90+2’), Maclean, Camara
Unused: Ryan Welch, Hales, Loft, Storey