In a game that was managed superbly to even make playable, AFC Uckfield Town took full advantage of their first outing for a fortnight and defied persistent rain to beat visitors Broadbridge Heath, striking deep into added time for an invaluable 1-0 win, reports Will Hugall.
With league points crucial after momentum had stalled recently for both teams, a predictably close match at The Oaks featured a number of chances shared in each half, but it was the Uckers who took the spoils in the 92nd minute, in similar circumstances to their meeting with the Bears exactly 12 months prior.
Taking advantage of the more forgiving early conditions, it was the Uckers who made the slightly stronger start, with Bailo Camara posing a constant wide threat to the Bears defence, while Ellis Cormack headed just wide from an Anthony Storey cross.
As the visitors established a foothold, Phil Hawkins was kept busy in the Uckers goal, first saving at his near post as a Bears attack that had only scored seven goals in their previous eight away matches tried to rediscover form on the road.
With the teams continuing to tough it out and neither giving anything away, the scores remained level at half time, presenting a real chance of the first goalless draw between the sides at SCFL Premier Division level.
Intent not to let the game pass them by, however, both teams began the second half with added energy, with an opening for Liam Baitup crucially charged down by the Bears defence before Hawkins combined with defender Sam Cooper to scramble away a goalmouth chance for the visitors.
Despite deteriorating conditions, the chances kept coming, with Bears goalkeeper Mitchell Bromage equal to an effort from Camara, following an aggressive move from the Uckers to introduce forward Tyler Pearson on the hour mark.
A point suited neither, and as the clock continued to tick down it became clear that if either side was to break the deadlock it would come down to a single opportunity, and so it proved in the second minute of added time, which came after treatment was required for Ryan Welch late on.
Sensing their opportunity, the Uckers launched an attack from Dee Okojie’s throw, and as Camara shook off the Bears defence with a twist to his right, the winger delivered the perfect cross for Baitup to run onto and direct past Bromage, leading to wild celebrations from the Uckers players.
The deflated visitors had no time to make a comeback, and the Uckers secured a superb three points for just their second league win in October since 2011 – their second in a row, in fact, after their 3-2 victory at the Bears in 2018 – also marking the win with their third clean sheet this season and a fourth consecutive victory against the Bears.
They will be sure to have an even tougher test to keep that run going this Tuesday, however, as they travel to the Bears’ new High Wood Hill ground to play a SCFA RUR Cup Third Round match which will decide who makes this season’s Quarter-Finals, with a 7:45 p.m. kick-off providing the weather permits.
AFC Uckfield Town: Hawkins, Rodrigues-Barbosa, Smith, Cooper, Ryan Welch, Richie Welch (C), Okojie, Storey (Pearson, 61’), Baitup, Cormack, Camara
Unused: Loft, Kosia, Tomlin, James
Credit to Graham Sullivan / @AfcUckfieldTown Twitter page for the basis of this report.