Following a ten-day absence from action, AFC Uckfield Town could not shake off their rustiness as they fell to a disjointed 4-1 defeat hosting Crawley Down Gatwick, as the visitors stormed back from an early deficit and leapfrogged the Uckers in league standings, reports Will Hugall.
An unfamiliar line-up at Peacehaven & Telscombe in their last outing saw four changes as the Uckers returned to The Oaks, with Taylor Maddock, Steve Hickman-Smith and Ellis Cormack all making welcome comebacks, while full-back Cameron Williams was handed his debut.
Setting the tone for a high-intensity first half, in just the fourth minute Uckfield were ahead, with Hickman-Smith making his way through a pack of players to head a corner past visiting goalkeeper Andy Greaves to register his fifth goal of 2019.
The Anvils, who secured a 3-1 victory in September’s reverse fixture, grew into the game after the early setback, as a Josh Brown shot from 20 yards was deflected onto Alex Harris’ crossbar, and Sam Cane drew a quick-thinking save from the Uckers goalkeeper from a subsequent corner.
While Ellis Cormack’s footing betrayed him when presented with an open goal after Greaves spilled a Matt Maclean shot, and control also evaded Maclean after an inventive move between Cormack and Brett Patton, the Uckers’ misfortune continued with an away equaliser after 23 minutes. Drifting a free-kick in from the left, Michael Wood’s delivery took Maddock by surprise, with the defender’s clearance looping up and back into his own net, beating a stricken Harris.
As Cormack found Greaves’ gloves with a shot from the left, and Gianfranco Mici was denied a penalty whilst falling under a lunge, the Uckers continued to dictate possession, but in the 34th minute found themselves trailing to a clinical finish. With a cross from the left causing Hickman-Smith to misjudge, the ball ran through the defender’s legs and Ollie Broad struck a first-time finish into the bottom left corner.
The Uckers’ deficit was not for the want of trying, and before half-time Dee Okojie fired at Greaves’ near post, only to find the Gatwick goalkeeper equal to his effort.
Pinning the West Sussex side deep in their own half, the Uckers began another wave of pressure after the restart, yet chances went begging as Okojie miscued a shot after finding space in the box, Maclean broke and drew a save from Greaves almost resulting in defender Billy Wright poking past his own goalkeeper, and Mici met an Okojie cross, but lacked power on his effort.
In the 57th minute, a costly misstep from the Uckers saw Brown felled in the box, and Anvils top goalscorer Oli Leslie duly added his 17th league strike of the season, placing into the bottom right corner.
Facing a compact Anvils defence, the remaining Uckfield chances were isolated, as Cormack headed over from close range after a well-placed Okojie cross, Mici delivered a corner begging for a touch in the goalmouth, and a scramble following an Okojie set-piece caused further frustration. Having committed several players forward, eventually the counter proved the final end to Uckers hopes in the 90th minute, as a switch from Leslie found Wood to tuck into the bottom left corner.
Looking to kick on again in the league, Uckfield return to action with a visit to Pagham this Saturday, kicking off at 3PM at Nyetimber Lane.
AFC Uckfield Town: Harris, Williams, Rodrigues-Barbosa, Hickman-Smith, Maddock, Welch (C), Okojie, Patton, Maclean, Cormack, Mici
Unused: Norman, Tomlin, Samways, Cooper, Storey
Images – Uckfield FM