In a victory that was overshadowed by the loss of Callum Smith to a broken ankle in the game’s early stages, an impressive Uckfield display in the circumstances saw them secure progression into the RUR Cup Third Round with a 3-1 win over Horsham YMCA, reports Will Hugall.
With Smith suffering an awkward fall before the match had really got underway, the Uckers had to keep their composure at Gorings Mead, and though an early lead was cancelled out, Liam Baitup’s second-half double and a penalty save from Phil Hawkins put the tie out of reach for an out-of-sorts YMCA team.
Only three minutes had passed when the Uckers striker lost his footing and went down in the side’s first attack, and with a stretcher required to take Smith off, the game got off to a belated start.
The Uckers were the stronger side immediately afterwards, and it was they who would take the lead in the 20th minute as Bailo Camara took advantage of casual defending to cut inside Dan Evans and have an attempt on goal, with the ball ricocheting off Guy Harding’s back to loop into the net.
With their first shot on goal, however, the hosts were level in the 31st minute, as Matt Daniel used a quick free-kick to find Luke Gedling and the midfielder forced his way into the Uckers box, evading a tackle from Tayler Maddock before firing into the bottom left corner.
Although half-chances emerged for Daniel and Liam Baitup, neither side could seriously threaten in the extensive period of added time, leaving the tie open at half-time.
Depending on the perspective, the next goal, coming in the 50th minute, was either clinical or controversial. Regardless of whether a ball played through to the forward could have been flagged for offside, however, Baitup ably exploited space in the YM box to shoot past Jeal into the bottom right corner, putting the Uckers back in front.
Emotions only increased minutes later, as Matt Maclean almost put the tie to bed for the Uckers but Jeal saved from close range and sprang a counter with Tony Nwachukwu clear on the left, who won a penalty when impeded by Phil Hawkins while getting a shot away. More drama would follow, with home captain Dean Carden striking to the left, but Hawkins making a superb save to palm clear and protect the Uckers’ lead.
YM continued their pressure, and after Hawkins’ heroics, it was left to his defence to make vital contributions of their own, as Regan Smith first cleared a dangerous cross from its pursuing targets.
With Dee Okojie then sticking a boot in to stop Nwachukwu from a free-kick into the six-yard box, the Uckers would choose the crucial moment for their match-winning third, as Camara charged clear down the left and found Baitup, who took a touch before blasting into the right of Jeal’s goal in the 71st minute.
Although Ellis Cormack and Baitup still impressed before being withdrawn, few chances remained in the contest and the Uckers earned their victory upon full-time to eliminate the two-time winners and progress into the Third Round.
While the Uckers await the victors of the Second Round tie between Broadbridge Heath and Crawley Down Gatwick in the next stage, they return to action this Tuesday night in their crucial FA Cup Preliminary Round replay against VCD Athletic, kicking off at 7:45 p.m., where your support will be hugely appreciated in roaring the Uckers to defy the odds once again.
AFC Uckfield Town: Hawkins, Okojie, R. Smith, Ryan Welch, Maddock, Sabino, Baitup (Rodrigues-Barbosa, 87’), Maclean (C), C. Smith (Quebé, 11’), Cormack (Pearson, 76’), Camara
Unused: James, Storey