In their rearranged FA Vase Third Round match against Sutton Common Rovers, AFC Uckfield Town made the best of difficult conditions by storming to a 5-2 victory to make the last 32 of the competition for the first time ever, reports Will Hugall.
With good fortune required to even get the match on, the Uckers returned from a fortnight’s absence with one change to their starting line-up, as Sam Cooper returned at centre-back.
Welcoming the South London outfit to a rainy Weald, Uckfield took the tie to their visitors from the outset, and reaped immediate rewards. Only five minutes in, a seemingly innocuous shot from Ellis Cormack was deflected off defender Tommy Smith’s boot into Matt Maclean’s path, where the striker tapped in.
The Combined Counties side were familiar to a slow start despite their superb league form, and struggled to settle until the half-hour mark as Brett Patton and Cormack both fired over Craig Bradshaw’s crossbar.
Louis Rogers was kept busy as the Commoners fought back, punching Phil Page’s powerful free-kick away, and also saving well from Kyle Henry’s drive.
Uckfield grabbed an important second goal in the 36th minute, but were overshadowed by the opening of the heavens as Calum Sherriff met a Regan Smith corner from the left, easily heading into the bottom right corner against statuesque marking.
Although there were calls amongst the away side to abandon events, Page surged in the first minute of added time to keep their hopes alive. Latching onto a poor Bradshaw kick, the striker raced Sherriff to the six-yard box and found the inside netting across Rogers.
Returning for the second-half, the rainclouds over The Oaks passed and the Uckers took advantage, although Page also had an opportunity to equalise, robbing Cooper of possession on the half-way line but failing to get any height on a speculative lob.
After the turn of the hour, the game entered a crucial stage, and Uckfield were the first to add to their tally in the 62nd minute. With an attack started from a throw, Cormack had space on the edge of the box to deceive the away defence and slip in Dee Okojie, who craned a shot into the left of the goal.
Just four minutes later, Rogers was late to pull out of a tackle on Daryl Cooper-Smith, with the striker’s back to goal. Page struck the resulting penalty into the goalkeeper’s hands, but was fortunate to see the ball trickle back into the bottom right corner.
A powerful response from the Uckfield offence only two minutes on saw them restore a two-goal lead. Bailo Camara was free on the right-wing and found Cormack with a cross, with the tall midfielder taking the ball down and striking off the heavy surface to crash home.
The sides exchanged efforts as the pitch cut up late on, and in the fifth minute of added time, the Uckers sealed victory in style. In a last-minute counter, Maclean rounded Bradshaw, who abandoned his net and allowed Cormack to win a challenge and roll home.
In the final 32 of the Vase, Uckfield will host Hellenic League side Windsor FC on January 5th, a tie set to be the biggest game of their various cup runs this season.
Summarising the magnitude of the result, assistant manager Andy Hales said: “We’re absolutely made-up for the result today, for the players that are working so hard and everyone behind the scenes.
“When we’re on top form, we believe we can beat any side. We’ll be ready for the next round, so bring it on!”
Chairman Tom Parker also reflected on progress in the competition, saying: “It’s unbelievable really. They’re a great side, and we may have sent a shudder through the FA Vase by beating them.
“It’s a million miles away from Wembley, but it’s on the radar. We won’t be complacent, and we take it a round at a time. The Oaks is a stronghold for us and home advantage is so important.”
Continuing their action in cup competitions, this Tuesday Uckfield travel to Pagham in the RUR Cup Quarter-Final, kicking off at 7:30PM.
AFC Uckfield Town: Rogers, Rodrigues-Barbosa, R. Smith, Cooper, Sherriff, Welch (C), Okojie, Patton, Maclean, Cormack, Camara
Unused: Norman, Mici, Hales, Broomfield, Creese
Ellis Cormack scored twice:-
Coach Andy Hales said:
Chairman Tom Parker said:-
All images – Uckfield FM – Mike Skinner