Uckfield ease past Loxwood with first-half blast

In-form AFC Uckfield Town continued their surge up the league table on an inclement visit to an improving Loxwood side, where three first-half goals set the tone for a professional performance and ensured they were largely untroubled throughout, reports Will Hugall.

After the postponement of their midweek RUR Cup quarter-final at Pagham, the Uckers returned to action with two changes to the side that ran out to a 5-2 FA Vase Third Round victory against Sutton Common Rovers, as the unavailable Calum Sherriff and Dee Okojie were replaced by Taylor Maddock and Gianfranco Mici.

In an unrelenting downpour on the Surrey border, the match tipped in Uckfield’s favour from kick-off, as Mici’s arcing cross into the six-yard box forced Magpies defender Matt Boiling to head clear, and within minutes the first goal was scored. As Bailo Camara squared to Matt Maclean on the edge of the box, the striker still had four defenders to beat, but saw his shot beat goalkeeper Liam Matthews into the bottom left corner via a slight deflection, securing a fifth minute lead.

Only three minutes later, the conditions had appeared to again affect Matthews, as the Uckers punished another error to take a commanding early lead. Taking aim from the left wing, Ellis Cormack’s attempt was spilled out, and Maclean capitalised to tap in for his sixth strike in four matches.

With their only point from losing league positions this season gained at The Oaks in August, Loxwood were staring down a mire, but regained confidence as Mark Goldson seized on a pass behind the Uckers defence to cross into Ash Mutongerwa, whose acrobatic effort was brilliantly blocked by Regan Smith.
The Uckers, however, were desperate to assert their lead before the half ended, and in the 39th minute, particularly determined to score, Mici had the goal his direct play had searched for. Driving inside from the left and using his agility to work an opening, the winger carved a shot across Matthews and into the bottom right corner.

Slow to adapt to the heavier downfalls in the second half, the visitors were fortunate not to concede to home substitute Nick Mynhardt as the South African turned from close range and released a tame shot, but in the 60th minute were powerless to resist the rejuvenated Magpies attack. As a corner was cleared only to the edge of the Uckfield box, Shabazz Omofe struck a piercing shot that took a deflection from one of a number of bodies to beat Louis Rogers.

Anthony Storey’s side rallied after the finish, and only Matthews’ heroics in the Loxwood goal could prevent Mici’s thunderous follow-up to a Regan Smith free-kick – picking himself back up to complete the double-save – and Maclean’s shot from a counter-attack soon after, which prompted a similar reaction stop.

After quick feet from captain Richie Welch and Camara’s burst down the left, the Uckers’ victory could have been sealed with a late fourth goal, but Cormack’s celebrations were cut short, as his connection to the incoming cross lacked power. Regardless, the Uckers would seal their fifth win in away league action in comfortable fashion, achieving 17 points from a possible 27 in that time as they move up to 11th.

Again on the road in SCFL Premier action, the Uckers’ rearranged tie at 17th-placed Hassocks takes place this Tuesday, kicking off at 7:45PM at The Beacon.

AFC Uckfield Town: Rogers, Rodrigues-Barbosa (Moore, 60’), R. Smith, Cooper, Maddock, Richie Welch (C), Mici (C. Smith, 79’), Patton, Maclean (Harper, 90+1’, Cormack, Camara
Unused: Ryan Welch, Hales