In a match worthy of candidacy for their most chaotic of the season, AFC Uckfield Town ran out to an unbelievable 7-2 victory over visitors Arundel as a two-goal deficit was overturned by the half-hour, and the floodgates truly opened in the second-half, reports Will Hugall.
Following their confident 2-1 win at Hassocks, the Uckers faced one enforced change, as Callum Smith’s suspension opened the door for Matt Maclean’s first appearance of 2019.
Conceding only three goals from their previous eight league matches, Uckfield had reason to be confident against the Mullets, who had not won away from home all season. Slippery midwinter conditions, however, benefited the Arundel counter-attack from an early stage, and by the 10th minute, the West Sussex side had twice capitalised on fundamental Uckers errors.
Firstly, as Richie Welch misplaced a half-way line pass, winger Ash Hawkes fired a first-time ball into striker Harry Russell, who rounded Louis Rogers and stroked home; 60 seconds later, David Crouch led a breakaway and squared to Hawkes, whose first shot was denied by Rogers, but his second, overhead from a sitting position, trickled over the line.
Without a clean sheet since August, however, the visitors’ defence hardly inspired confidence, and by the half-hour the Uckers’ own rapid double salvo brought the scores level. In the 26th minute, Okojie stole possession in midfield, and the winger’s interchange with Brett Patton and Maclean carved open a cross from the latter to Ellis Cormack, who stabbed in.
Four minutes later, a corner from the left was blocked on the first attempt, but Steve Hickman-Smith lashed home from 15 yards, clinically levelling the scores.
Encouraged to flood the Arundel box at any opportunity, Uckfield – frustrated by their first-half performance – responded emphatically to their instructions at the restart, and could have tipped the balance early on, as Maclean was denied by Stevens from a far-post header, Camara lashed into the side-netting, and Owen Benfell again frustrated Maclean by punting clear on the goal-line.
In the 58th minute, pressure finally told as Patton won possession in midfield and released Okojie on the right, as the winger twisted inside and floated into Camara, who crowned a glorious delivery by directing into the top right corner.
As the visitors began to cave in, a spot-kick followed in the 65th minute, with Camara sandwiched after charging into the box. Stuttering at the end of his run-up, however, Okojie struck tamely into Stevens’ right glove and was kept out.
The Mullets could not hold out any longer, however, and after 72 minutes, Camara beat a stationary Benfell from the left and lifted a cross to the far-post, where Cormack was unmarked to head home.
Freed from their shackles, the Uckfield attack went into frenzy in the final 15 minutes, and began only minutes after their fourth with a deserved Maclean goal, as the striker converted a rebound after Cormack, searching for his hat-trick, had driven into Stevens’ shins.
As the visitors admirably attempted to turn the tide, they soon found themselves sinking, as a patchwork defence was punished when captain Jordan Dudas had no choice but to haul Camara down in the 86th minute, allowing Cormack to seal his hat-trick by blasting into the bottom right corner, and only a minute later Hickman-Smith tapped in his second from a right-wing cross to complete the demolition.
Given a week to adjust to reality, the Uckers will return to The Oaks next Saturday when they host a resurgent Eastbourne United team, kicking off at 3pm.
AFC Uckfield Town: Rogers, Rodrigues-Barbosa (Cooper, 63’), R. Smith, Maddock, Hickman-Smith, Welch (C), Okojie (Astle, 76’), Patton, Maclean (Mici, 81’), Cormack, Camara
Unused: Moore, Harper