Having established a first-minute platform, Uckfield surged to a six-goal victory to gain passage in the Peter Bentley Cup against a rebuilding Eastbourne United team, who played bravely with ten men for the majority of the match, reports Will Hugall.
With one eye on their upcoming FA Cup fixture, Uckers manager Anthony Storey rang two changes to his starting line-up; Ryan Welch and Bright Temba replacing Sam Cooper and Craig Norman.
Perhaps more importantly, United’s side saw six alterations to that which fell to a 4-1 home defeat to the Uckers two weeks previous – although the revamp proved trivial just shy of a minute in, as a Bailo Camara free-kick from 30 yards sailed over all targets in the box, and eclipsed Charlie Bernard’s punch in the United net to nestle in the top left corner.
Wasting no time in extending his goalscoring run, in the 14th minute Callum Smith bore down on the United goal from 25 yards and exploited loose pressure to fire under Bernard.
While United may have regained a foothold as Louis Rogers executed an unlikely double save in the 25th minute – first to deny Joel Kalambayi, and then to release a seagull trapped in his net – just two minutes later, midfielder Nick Cox was expelled for a mistimed touchline tackle on Matt Rodrigues-Barbosa, and in the 31st minute their mire deepened, as Matt Maclean prodded home a free-kick headed back by Calum Sheriff.
Having left numerous forays unpunished towards the first-half’s conclusion, the Uckers began the second period with the ideal opportunity to extend their lead, as Rodrigues-Barbosa’s dazzling run into the box was upended by Will Gordon. Ensuring his side’s fight continued, however, Bernard produced a determined one-handed stop to prevent Smith’s powerful low spot-kick.
As substitutions renewed visiting vigour, in the 59th minute a second spot-kick opportunity was awarded, as Camara won a shove from the incandescent Dale Penn, and the player-assistant manager blasted high to the left of the goal, sending Bernard the wrong way.
Showboating somewhat, the Uckers tried their luck from range, with Essa Janneh coming closest after crashing onto the crossbar with a midfield piledriver. With United powerless to stem the ambush, two further Uckers goals capped off the evening; in the 73rd minute, Dee Okojie bagged the side’s fifth after ghosting into a prime position and slotting beyond Bernard and fellow goal-line bodies, while in the 79th minute, Smith dropped a right-wing cross onto Janneh’s head to nod back across goal.
While Smith was again foiled by Bernard in his personal goalscoring quest and Okojie shared opportunities, United – to their credit – refused to capitulate to the Uckers, who await either Loxwood or Alfold in the Third Round.
In a third instalment of their astounding FA Cup run, Uckfield host AFC Croydon Athletic in a historic First Qualifying Round tie this Saturday, kicking off at 3pm at The Oaks.
AFC Uckfield Town: Rogers, Ryan Welch, Rodrigues-Barbosa, Hickman-Smith, Sheriff, Richie Welch (C), Temba (Okojie, 56’), Maclean (Janneh, 58’), Smith, Black, Camara (Ducatel, 60’)
Unused: Loft, Hales