AFC Uckfield Town and Crawley Down Gatwick were both left pointless after their SCFL Premier Division meeting this weekend – and in one of the more unusual reasons for an abandonment that they will see this season, it was not adverse weather conditions or floodlight failure, but an injury to assistant referee Jason Storrie that cut short the game at 45 minutes.
As frustrating as the finish may have been for the Uckers, it was the visitors who were leading 1-0 at the time, and for them it was a third abandonment of the season – all in varying circumstances – likely leaving them feeling incredibly hard done by having deservedly led after a solid first-half performance, reports Will Hugall.
The visitors were the stronger starters as both teams made three changes from their midweek Sussex Senior Cup ties – the Anvils’ only a two-minute affair after a farcical abandonment – and were the first to threaten as Ollie Moore struck a half-volley straight at Phil Hawkins from 20 yards.
That third minute chance was only a precursor to the Anvils opportunities that followed, as ten minutes in Nick Sullivan blazed over Hawkins’ crossbar after a ball was played far too easily through the heart of the Uckfield defence for the striker.
The Anvils would not be so profligate in the 12th minute, and it was their other attacking talents who linked up to put them ahead, with Michael Wood driving in from the left and squaring to Russell Malton, whose blocked effort allowed Moore to follow up with a cracking half-volley that cannoned in off the crossbar.
Two minutes later, Wood had another attempt sail well over after turning to meet a Malton cross, but it was the Anvils’ ability to frustrate the Uckers that was the most impressive factor in the fallout of the goal.
For much of the 45 minutes, the Uckers struggled to break out of their half under the weight of the West Sussex side’s high press, and when they did they were only afforded half-chances by a miserly Anvils backline.
Matt Rodriges-Barbosa went close midway through when he latched onto a pass played behind the visiting defence and forced a save from Sam Smith, while Liam Baitup was unable to reach a header from Maddock as he dived in at the left post two minutes later.
After treatments to both Wood and Bailo Camara, the tempo of the game recovered, with Tyler Pearson having a reasonable opportunity as Camara found him on the counter, only for the striker’s finish to land in Smith’s gloves as the Anvils defence recovered.
An attritional end to the half followed, with the experienced visitors able to see out the remaining minutes under the Uckers’ ongoing pressure.
With an interesting battle set to unfold in the second half, it made it even more frustrating that as both sets of players stood waiting for the officials to return for several minutes, referee Luke Chapman had to rule the match annulled, with neither side able to accept the other’s suggestion for a replacement assistant referee.
The fixture will therefore now be rescheduled at a later date, potentially in the week starting the 21st October depending on the unfolding schedules of both teams.
The Uckers’ next action, however, will take place next Saturday, again at The Oaks, when they host Little Common in the Peter Bentley Cup 3rd Round, kicking off at 3 p.m.
The Anvils, meanwhile, will keep their fingers crossed that they can complete their Sussex Senior Cup tie with Midhurst & Easebourne at the second time of asking this Tuesday (KO 7:30 p.m.) without any further misfortunes.
AFC Uckfield Town: Hawkins, Rodrigues-Barbosa, Cooper, Sherriff, Madddock, Welch (C), Okojie, Scott, Pearson, Baitup, Camara
Unused: Storey, Alexander, Tomlin, Loft, Samways
Crawley Down Gatwick: Smith, Cooney (C), Findlay, Brown, Packham, Pelling, Malton, Belli, Sullivan, Moore, Wood
Unused: Weddell, Baston, Martin, Leslie, Jenner