In their first Third Round appearance for nine seasons, AFC Uckfield Town’s 2019-20 Sussex Senior Cup run came to an end at National League South side Eastbourne Borough, but in only losing 2-0 after an early red card will take tremendous credit, reports Will Hugall.
Indeed, in a result that might otherwise look routine for Borough, it was the Uckers’ performance in the circumstances of a 22nd-minute sending-off and penalty that impressed the most, with resilience displayed particularly in the second half to frustrate the hosts en route to a Quarter-Final place.
Taking control early on as expected, the hosts controlled possession and went close as Ryan Welch cleared Greg Luer’s cross and Kristian Campbell made a dangerous run into the box before being crowded out.
As the Uckers appeared to gain a foothold, the Sports struck back with another double salvo of chances, but the Uckers kept them under control as Phil Hawkins saved with his boot to deny Eze Ebuzoeme, before Nick Wheeler struck a close-range volley past Hawkins’ far post.
A trio of Uckfield corners then produced their first genuine chance in the match, as Ellis Cormack headed low into Scott Chalmers-Stevens’ gloves as Richie Welch and Bailo Camara combined to set him up.
In the 22nd minute, however, the Uckers’ plans had to be immediately reset, as a clearance fell into the path of Charlie Walker, whose shot was parried by Hawkins before Mike West picked up the rebound, striking a rising effort at the open goal.
With Ryan Welch reacting by palming over the bar, the Uckers defender was expelled and Walker was left to take the penalty, dispatching confidently into the bottom right corner to give his side the lead.
The numerical difference between the sides was undoubtedly a key factor afterwards, and while Bailo Camara almost had a penalty claim from Matt Maclean’s pass, the hosts predictably controlled for the rest of the half.
Although Luer was denied by Sam Cooper after poking past Hawkins, Borough would not be denied for much longer, and as West won a corner with a rasping drive, the resulting delivery broke for Steven James to direct a fine finish into the bottom left corner in the 40th minute.
James would have another chance to score before half-time, but headed into Hawkins’ gloves at the far post after a cross came in from the right.
The Sports’ pressure continued after the break, with James denied another headed chance, Luer again stopped by Cooper, and West – the hosts’ creative heartbeat – frustrated on several occasions as the Uckers held firm.
Anthony Storey’s side proved well-drilled throughout the half, and beyond the hour mark they even started to control, with Tayler Maddock even having the best chance of the period with a header wide of the post from their only genuine sight of goal.
Danny Bloor’s side rallied again in response, and but for Luer’s poor fortune could well have had their third; the striker firing an effort wide before another close-range attempt was stopped by Hawkins.
In the latter stages, Jethro Hanson and Tobi Adebayo-Rowling both still had the chance to cap their side’s win but would blaze wide under close pressure, and the Uckers were largely untroubled in holding out at the culmination of a performance they could be extremely proud of by full-time.
While the Sports continue to the Quarter-Final for the 13th time in the last 15 seasons, then, the Uckers should be pleased with their run this season, and particularly in giving a fine account of themselves at each stage of their deepest run in the competition since 2010-11.
As they return to league action this Saturday at The Oaks by hosting SCFL Premier Division leaders Eastbourne Town, such experience may prove invaluable – the match their third against Town this season, after one win for each previously. A full preview will be available later this week.
Eastbourne Borough: Chalmers-Stevens, Adebayo-Rowling, Campbell, Wills (C), Blackmore, James, Ebuzoeme (Hanson, 57’), Walker (Overton, 28’), Luer, West, Wheeler (Gharbaoui, 84’)
Unused: Hadler, Bray
AFC Uckfield Town: Hawkins, Rodrigues-Barbosa, Cooper, Ryan Welch, Maddock, Richie Welch (C), Okojie, Maclean (Scott, 53’), Baitup, Cormack, Camara
Unused: Loft, Samways, Storey, Norman
Images (c) Mike Skinner