Few teams caused more problems for AFC Uckfield Town than Saltdean United last season – limiting the Uckers to just one point in their league meetings, while ousting them in the season-ending Peter Bentley Cup Final.
This weekend, the two sides go head-to-head for the first time since that cup final in May, and with vital league points on the line another highly competitive match could be in store, writes Will Hugall.
On this weekend last year, Uckfield was gearing up for possibly the biggest match in the town’s footballing history.
That game, an FA Cup 2nd Qualifying Round tie in which they welcomed Dartford of the National League South, may have ended in a 3-1 defeat, but typified the Uckers’ steadfast spirit and left memories that remain just as powerful now.
While the Southern Combination league has no representatives in this season’s 2nd Qualifying Round, a full round of league fixtures instead has relevance in shaping up a table where the top two sides – Eastbourne Town and Lancing – are starting to open up a notable lead.
The Uckers still have a game in hand on both leaders, but will look for a positive result to continue their promising start, following a record finish of 7th last season.
A clean sheet will be high on the Uckers’ agenda, too, with their current run of 10 matches without keeping one only four short of their longest such spell in 2018-19.
Even more incentive to do so may come from the fact that, since 2014, eight meetings with the Tigers have yet to produce an Uckers clean sheet – although equally, today’s visitors have only kept one themselves in that run.
Opposition Lowdown – Saltdean United
Although they finished as one of only three SCFL Premier sides the Uckers were unable to beat in any competition in 2018-19, and they achieved their best league finish since 1999-2000, the Tigers have started slowly this season, and sit 13th after seven games.
Admittedly, the fixtures calendar hasn’t been kind on the team so far, with this being their sixth game in all competitions against any of the SCFL’s top eleven sides from 2018-19.
As well as the extremely premature end of their Peter Bentley Cup title defence with a 2nd Round defeat at Lingfield, the side, now managed by Tom Betts, exited the FA Cup to local rivals Whitehawk FC and went out of the FA Vase to Kent side Lordswood, making for an unsteady start to their 2019-20 campaign.
They will be keen to put that behind them today, however, and take momentum from a 7-1 midweek RUR Cup win against Worthing United, which secured them a home 3rd Round tie against Peacehaven & Telscombe.
With only one clean sheet in their previous 17 matches dating back to this March, the Tigers are equally as likely as Uckfield to rely on their scoring prowess for points at The Oaks.
Should this be the case, a key contest is likely to take place between Alex Laing and the Uckers’ Liam Baitup, with both strikers already bagging seven goals this season and boasting pedigrees suggesting they will be aiming for many more.
Admission is £6 for adults, £3 for concessions, and free for children.
Directions to The Oaks (Framfield, TN22 5QL) are available here.
Live updates will be available throughout the match on the @AfcUckfieldTown Twitter page, with live coverage also coming from the Saturday Sport programme with David Eggleston, from 2-6 p.m. here on Uckfield FM.
We hope to see you down at The Oaks supporting the mighty Uckers for what is set to be a dramatic instalment in the team’s season, the first of four consecutive league games where taking full points will be very much the target.