As the curtain came down on the 2018-19 season for AFC Uckfield Town’s sides with two cup finals this week, it completes what has been a momentous ten months for the club, writes Will Hugall.
When the new season began in August 2018, the club’s sights were set on a top-eight finish in the Southern Combination Premier Division, along with the customary aim of cup progress, and the success of their youth sides.
Achievements in the months since, however, have exceeded all expectations and made for a superb season to look back on.
Not only building on the 14th-place league finish of the 2017-18 season, the club’s senior side reached new heights in manager Anthony Storey’s third full season in charge by finishing 7th in the SCFL Premier – the highest ever finish for a team from Uckfield.
As well as achieving the highest points total and goals tally of an Uckfield side in Sussex’s top tier, the Uckers’ goalscoring feats have been notable in a national picture. Across a 38-game league season, Uckfield registered the highest number of goals (89) of any side outside the top four of a division at the fifth tier of English non-league football.
Wins against Arundel (7-2), and Broadbridge Heath (6-1) were crucial in this feat, while closely-fought encounters with each of the league’s top five clubs, including a stoppage-time 1-0 defeat at Chichester City and two incredible 4-3 defeats to Horsham YMCA, proved the Uckers were able to compete at even higher standards than their league position may have told.
Uckfield’s 2018-19 season may be best remembered for its several notable cup runs, however. From a first ever FA Cup victory, over Glebe in August, to an FA Vase run that included notable wins at former finalists Tunbridge Wells, and against eventual Combined Counties Premier Division runners-up Sutton Common Rovers, the Uckers’ knockout nerve was tested on several occasions.
While a ten-man quarter-final victory over Peacehaven & Telscombe was remarkable in their run to the Peter Bentley Cup Final, the Uckers’ triumph against all odds with seven men at AFC Croydon Athletic had even greater importance, setting up a FA Cup Second Qualifying Round tie against Dartford which, like a later FA Vase exit against Windsor, was played to capacity crowds at The Oaks.
In the RUR Cup, meanwhile, gritty wins at Newhaven and Pagham saw them to their first ever Semi-Final, and in the Peter Bentley Cup, Semi-Final victory over Horsham YMCA set up a Final against Saltdean United, which despite losing 3-1, the Uckers showed tremendous spirit in to almost take to extra-time.
Away from first-team success, Bailo Camara’s under-23 side have had an incredible season, winning an unprecedented treble in their field. After clinching the SCFL Under-23 East Division with a game to spare, the young Uckers ran out to a 6-1 win in the SCFL Under-23 Challenge Cup Final against East Preston, and completed their season by lifting the Eastbourne Challenge Cup, running out 3-0 winners over Hailsham Town.
The Uckers’ under-18 side also managed to secure third place in the SCFL Under-18 East Division, with a testament to their success, and the club’s willingness to give young players opportunities, in the fact that five members of the side made first-team appearances throughout the season.
With the management staff, committee members, backroom team, all the supporters, and of course the players of Uckfield’s teams this season all due an enormous amount of credit for their hard work and dedication, the club is able to reflect on a superb season, with breakthrough achievements in all departments.
Planning will of course soon start for the 2019-20 season, when all involved will aim to recapture the heroics of an outstanding 2018-19 and create further history for the young club.
A few images from the season by Mike Skinner & Ron Hill
FA Cup v Dartford a big day for the club
The FA Vase saw Uckers play Windsor