Football – Uckfield set to make home return as league leaders visit

Looking to put recent cup exits behind them and make league progress, AFC Uckfield Town will hope a much-delayed return to their home at The Oaks inspires them this Saturday as the test of leaders Eastbourne Town awaits, writes Will Hugall.

The match, if surviving a pitch inspection, will be the Uckers’ first at home for six weeks, and with Town visiting at a potential turning point in the season for both sides, is sure to be one of the SCFL’s key fixtures this weekend.

Following a week in which they have both been eliminated from the FA Vase – the Uckers at Berkshire’s Binfield, and Town at Bedfordshire’s Leighton Town – and Anthony Storey’s side also exited the Sussex Senior Cup, the losing streaks now faced by both will be the focus leading into the meeting.

Although they were arguably the SCFL Premier Division’s form sides in league and cup until recently, both East Sussex teams have now had frailties exposed, particularly with scoring runs that once seemed endless now curtailed (Uckfield at 21 matches, Town at 17), and it will surely be fascinating to see how they respond.

There are, of course, caveats to the recent spells of poor form suffered by each.

The Uckers’ 4-0 Vase exit at Binfield was certainly an aberration – their biggest defeat since a 6-2 Senior Cup exit at Worthing FC over 12 months ago, and the largest margin of defeat they have suffered with 11 men since November 2017.

Their defeat at Eastbourne Borough was, by comparison, a strong recovery when being tasked to bridge three divisions, and can be viewed as part of a highly respectable Senior Cup run this season.

Town, meanwhile, were always going to come under fire from title rivals Lancing in their league meeting three weeks ago, and with a sending-off and sin bin suffered en route to a 3-1 defeat at Culver Road, the pressure to recover a week later against a full-strength Crawley Down Gatwick side undoubtedly gave the Anvils an advantage in their 1-0 win.

As John Lambert’s outfit aim to put distance between themselves and joint-second sides Peacehaven & Telscombe and Lancing just four points behind (prior to Peacehaven’s Friday night fixture vs Little Common), however, there will be no excuses this weekend.

After the Uckers ousted them from the Sussex Senior Cup in their previous meeting, Town may, in fact, have revenge on their minds; Dan Perry, George Taggart and Aaron Capon, all regular threats to Storey’s side, were kept quiet in a 2-1 win, but will be looking to add to their cumulative season total of 39 goals this weekend.

Omitting a 2-0 Peter Bentley Cup win in 2017-18 – a result annulled as Taggart’s place in the Uckers squad was found to breach registration rules – that Senior Cup victory was only Uckfield’s second in their last 11 meetings with Town, and a rarity they would like to repeat in their own search for league points.

In a congested mid-table, and with three games in hand still to play, they could certainly move into closer contention of a place amongst the top five or six clubs at present with victory at The Oaks. Prior to an SCFA RUR Cup Quarter-Final at Eastbourne United in midweek, also, momentum could be a crucial asset, and could scarcely come in better form than the scalp of the league leaders.

Match Information
AFC Uckfield Town v Eastbourne Town FC kicks off this Saturday at 3 p.m. at The Oaks (Framfield, TN22 5QL). Directions are available here; http://www.scfl.org.uk/grounddetail.php?gnd_id=2.

Admission is £6 for adults, £3 for concessions, and free for under-18s.

Coverage will be available throughout the game on two fronts, with the @AfcUckfieldTown Twitter page providing key updates, while on Uckfield FM, the Saturday Sports programme with David Eggleston will have news from the game and all other local sporting events from 2-6 p.m.

A full report from the match will be available on the Uckfield FM website in the hours afterwards, along with a preview to the Uckers’ RUR Cup Quarter-Final – so be sure to look out for all upcoming coverage.

Come on you Uckers!