In an immediate rematch after the Uckers’ 1-0 league win only three days earlier, AFC Uckfield Town travel to Broadbridge Heath this Tuesday night for a RUR Cup Third Round tie that will see the Uckers make their first ever appearance at High Wood Hill, writes Will Hugall.
Deciding who will take the Quarter-Final place at stake is unlikely to be easy, with both teams able to boast impressive recent history in the competition and recent form adding to an extremely even record over the past five seasons, so hopes will be high for a classic cup tie.
From an Uckfield perspective, there will be plenty of reasons for optimism ahead of another meeting with the Bears. Victories in five of the last six matches between the two, despite only finishing higher in league position once since the 2012-13 season, attest to a fine recent run against the Horsham side.
They may not yet be able to boast the depth of performances as Heath, but after coming a long way in a short amount of time, the Uckers can certainly see themselves as equals in this competition to their hosts this evening.
With AFC Uckfield’s appearance in the 2011 Final, where they were beaten 2-0 by Crawley Down, and the current side’s run to the Semi-Finals in 2018-19, perhaps the Uckers can be allowed to fall back in love with the RUR Cup.
This was a competition, after all, where, as the current club and its predecessors, they had otherwise failed to go beyond the Third Round in the last 15 years – tonight only being their fifth appearance beyond the Second Round in that spell, but one full of much more optimism than ever before.
Broadbridge Heath FC: RUR Cup History
After a re-introduction last weekend, the Uckfield faithful won’t have to be reminded of the history and current threats of Steve Painter’s Bears.
Despite coming away empty-handed at The Oaks, the side continue to hold a position above the Uckers in the SCFL Premier Division this season – albeit a margin of only one point separating the sides in 10th and 11th positions respectively.
Perhaps even more impressive than their consistency in league performance – finishing in the top half of each league they’ve played in all but once this decade – is their pedigree in the Sussex FA’s regular Charity Cup.
Connections could be drawn between the Royal Ulster Rifles’ legacy in Sussex football and the Bears’ own military background – being formed in 1919 and playing for most of their history on the former Wickhurst Lane Army camp – but with four Semi-Final appearances in the last seven seasons, there is clearly more than coincidence to Heath’s relationship with the cup.
A Final defeat to East Preston in 2013 was the closest the Bears came to being able to win the trophy in that time, but with two Second Round exits also in the last three seasons, they will be keen to re-establish success at this stage of the competition here.
To reach this stage, tonight’s hosts have already had to survive enough uncertainty in their campaign this season as they were forced to undertake a replay with Crawley Down Gatwick.
The original tie, locked at 2-2 in extra time, was abruptly halted for a floodlight failure at the new High Wood Hill ground, and in a rearrangement just over two weeks ago, the Bears finally prevailed 2-1.
The Uckers had their own fair share of drama as they secured passage to this stage with a 3-1 win over Horsham YMCA in late August, a game in which Callum Smith suffered a broken ankle early on before Liam Baitup scored twice. Callum continues his recovery, and we wish him all the best as the squad aim to do him justice again with another solid performance.
Broadbridge Heath FC v AFC Uckfield Town kicks off at 7:45 p.m. at High Wood Hill (Horsham, RH12 3US) tonight; directions are available via Google Maps at http://www.scfl.org.uk/grounddetail.php?gnd_id=62, with parking advised at the nearby Leisure Centre or Bowls Club.
Admission is £6 for adults, £4 for concessions, and £1 for under-18s.
Updates throughout the game can also be found from the @AfcUckfieldTown Twitter feed, with a full report to follow here on the Uckfield FM website on Wednesday.