Football – Uckers falter in final league outing

An underwhelming Uckfield performance led to a 1-0 defeat in their last away match of the 2018-19 league season, with a spirited Little Common side never truly troubled enough to surrender three points which effectively guaranteed their survival in the SCFL Premier Division, reports Will Hugall.

Common captain and record goalscorer Lewis Hole grabbed the only goal of the game after 30 minutes, with much of the other action dominated by set-pieces, and a succession of half-chances which two sides winding down for the season never truly looked likely to convert from.

Much of the early stages were contested on equal terms, with a catalogue of free-kicks and corners ably delivered by home player-manager Russell Eldridge and Uckers skipper Richie Welch, but those that were the targets for such set-pieces – mostly notably Ryan Alexander for the hosts – failing to test either goalkeeper.

Both forwards, Hole and Callum Smith, also created openings of their own, and after the former came close to meeting a route one kick from Matt Cruttwell, the latter almost lobbed Cruttwell from the right of the box, before a chance from a flick-on into the box arrived too quickly for Smith to finish cleanly.

Ending the exchange of opportunities, Hole put Common ahead from a seemingly unthreatening Eldridge throw-in, as the Uckfield defence failed to notice the striker coming in after an initial clearance, and Hole placed an experienced finish into the top right corner.

Further free-kicks followed before half-time, with Alexander, and Uckfield’s Cooper and Cormack, all threatening before Adam Smith missed the best headed opportunity, less than six yards out, in the depths of added time.

A renewed Uckfield impetus from the restart resulted in possibly their most effective spell of the game, as Ellis Cormack lashed a half-volley just wide of Cruttwell’s left post from Dee Okojie’s pass, and Callum Smith then drove into Cruttwell’s gloves from the right of the box.

The Uckers continued to control the game until the hour mark, but as Smith dribbled another attempt at goal, and Bailo Camara ended a counter-attack by lifting well over, time was drifting away for the visitors to perform a turnaround.

With wingers Okojie and Camara able to finally stretch their legs and beat Common’s full-backs, Uckfield still had their opportunities limited by errors at crucial moments. Space opened up for Common as a result, and Hole was edged out after Brett Patton lost possession, before beating Alex Harris to a ball 20 yards from the Uckers’ goal, only to lose his footing and being unable to take advantage of the open goal.

Putting home hearts in mouths in the final ten minutes, Camara firstly turned the Common defence before delivering a cross into Cormack, who narrowly headed over, and Okojie crossed from the right before substitute Gianfranco Mici miscued, striking wide. Failing to overcome their frustrations in the closing stages, Uckfield could not add to the 28 points gained on the road in 2018-19 – a record one better than in 2017-18.

With the opportunity to redeem a stop-start end to the league season, Uckfield return to The Oaks this Bank Holiday Monday for a crucial match against Lingfield FC, kicking off at 11AM.

AFC Uckfield Town: Harris, Norman (Mici, 71’), Rodrigues-Barbosa, Cooper, Guimaraes, Welch (C), Okojie, Patton (Hales, 90’), Smith (Samways, 84’), Cormack, Camara
Unused: Hickman-Smith