In a closely-fought encounter never lacking quality, Eastbourne Town proved their promotion credentials as they controlled throughout against AFC Uckfield Town and scored two opportune goals to edge out the Uckers, who ended the match with nine men, reports Will Hugall.
It was a frustrating evening for Uckfield, who only fell short in a few key moments, including falling behind midway through the first-half and seeing their challenge fall away in a dramatic five-minute second-half spell.
Up against a good team
Town, who boasted the 2018-19 SCFL Premier’s best home record, were always going to pose a sterner test for the Uckers than previous opponents Pagham, and so it proved early on as Sam Cole powered past the Uckfield defence twice to find Dan Perry and Tyler Scrafton, but both forwards narrowly missed.
Goal for Uckers
It appeared likely that a lapse in the Uckers’ concentration would be required for the hosts to take control, and so proved the case in the 24th minute as they swept into the lead. With Cole again making his way to the by-line, his cross deflected off Dee Okojie’s boot and found Perry unmarked to flick a finish over Phil Hawkins from five yards.
Uckfield persevered, and could have had a quick equaliser, only for Town goalkeeper Jason Tibble to stop Calum Sherriff after a free kick fell to the far post.
Further chances followed for the visitors, as a flurry of corners saw Sherriff carve a shot wide and Ellis Cormack force a save low to Tibble’s left just before half-time.
Anthony Storey’s side started with similar confidence in the second half, and ten minutes in were almost rewarded with a quality effort from Okojie, who dispossessed Dan Bolwell on the right and struck a left-footed attempt, drawing Tibble in a diving tip over his bar.
Uckfield’s set-pieces also still threatened, as Regan Smith tested Tibble from distance and delivered to Sherriff, who was unmarked but could not meet a free-kick cleanly.
As the Uckers attempted to press home their momentum, however, their chances went up in smoke. Amidst confusion, in the 67th minute Bailo Camara was shown a red card for dissent, and just a minute later, a disorganised Uckfield defence saw Town sweep forward and left Perry unmarked to lash a finish past Hawkins into the bottom right corner.
Worse was still to come, as Mayckol Sabino was awarded a second booking for a naïve body check, and though with 20 minutes remaining the Uckers tried manfully to keep competing, their chances were up. As Hawkins did well to parry a drive from Perry, and the Town striker also missed a chance to complete hit hat-trick by heading wide late on, the match petered out, with Town easing through.
This weekend, Uckfield will hope to keep up their competitive performances this season but get back to winning ways as attentions turn to FA Cup action, with a trip to tournament debutants Welling Town of the SCEFL Premier, with a 3 pm kick-off at Thamesmead’s Bayliss Avenue.
AFC Uckfield Town: Hawkins, Rodrigues-Barbosa, Smith (Ryan Welch, 82’), Sherriff, Maddock, Richie Welch (C), Okojie (Black, 63’), Sabino, Baitup (Maclean, 66’), Cormack, Camara
Unused: Pearson, Loft