After almost three months of waiting, AFC Uckfield Town return to competitive action this weekend as they welcome Pagham FC to The Oaks for the start of their 2019-20 season in the SCFL Premier Division.
The club finished in a record 7th place in their 2018-19 league campaign, and will look to make even greater progress in manager Anthony Storey’s fourth full season in charge.
In preparation for such a task, the Uckers’ pre-season has demonstrated plenty of good signs, with the side not only winning all five of their matches, but bagging 26 goals in the process, including a 5-0 win against Crowborough Athletic and a 7-1 rout of St Francis Rangers.
With an FA Cup Extra Preliminary Round visit to Welling Town, debutants in the competition, on the horizon on Saturday 10th August, the team will have added motivation to hit the ground running, with the aim of emulating a record run in last season’s competition.
A similarly unprecedented achievement in reaching the 2018-19 FA Vase Fourth Round has been rewarded with a bye all the way to the tournament’s Second Round this season. With that tie set to take place on 2nd November, the Uckers’ early schedule is eased somewhat, although a Peter Bentley Cup Second Round match against AFC Varndeanians has also been scheduled to take place on Tuesday 3rd September.
With their eyes firmly fixed on kicking off their league campaign in style for now, Uckfield’s squad, made up of a host of key figures of 2018-19 as well as a few new faces, will be first faced with a potentially unknown quantity in Pagham, after the Bognor Regis-based side introduced several changes during the close season.
Having lost their previous joint managerial team of Richie Hellen and Tom Simmons over the summer, the Lions acted quickly to appoint former East Preston boss Bob Paine to lead them into their 2019-20 campaign. The side had a mixed set of pre-season results, finishing with a 4-3 win against FC Deportivo Galicia.
Last season, Uckfield won twice on the West Sussex coast but were beaten 4-3 at home by the Lions, and after sharing 16 goals in those three encounters, a high-scoring start to the season is a distinct possibility for both sides.
As another season beckons for AFC Uckfield Town, more thrilling action would not be unexpected from a club that has confounded many expectations already, and will aim to continue doing so in the months ahead.