AFC Uckfield Town sealed their highest ever finish of 7th in the top tier of Sussex football with a 4-0 victory in the final game of a standout league season, as an incisive series of first-half finishes was enough to ease past a Hassocks side who never really found their stride, reports Will Hugall.
Assured before kick-off of at least equalling predecessors AFC Uckfield’s 8th-place finish in the 2011-12 season, the Uckers looked to add further honours to a week in which they also lifted the SCFL Under-23 Challenge Cup as three changes saw Matt Rodrigues-Barbosa, Tayler Maddock and Callum Smith return.
Anthony Storey’s side began in confident mood, and within five minutes could have been ahead as Smith shirked Brad Tighe’s challenge and forced a shot at goal, where Bailo Camara almost diverted the ball past goalkeeper Josh Green, before Ellis Cormack powered wide from a loose ball in the 18-yard box.
As Sam Cooper and Richie Welch threatened with deliveries from the left, Uckfield’s pressure finally resulted in a goal in the 14th minute, as Smith drew defender Dan Jacques into an uncomfortable position on the edge of his penalty area and squared to the penalty spot, where Dee Okojie turned past Green.
With Hassocks unable to stem the flow of attacks, Brett Patton added the Uckers’ second after 20 minutes with a fine strike, receiving possession around 25 yards from goal and arcing his body to lift the ball over Green, whose dive came too late to claw away.
The third goal did not take much longer, arriving in the 29th minute as Okojie sealed his second from a left-wing Callum Smith cross on a breakaway, heading in from the right of the six-yard box.
While two chances for Ellis Cormack to register went begging, the Uckers made it four before half-time with a sumptuous 43rd minute move, as Welch judged an aerial pass into Smith perfectly, putting the striker into a footrace with the Hassocks backline before Smith finishing incisively under Green for his 32nd goal of the season.
With the direction of the three points already in little doubt by the start of the second half, neither side genuinely managed to break out of first gear and threaten further individual honours.
Between the instances of Smith limping off early in the half and Camara following in the final 15 minutes, Uckfield’s attacking standards of the first half could not be replicated, with a deflected effort from Camara the closest they came as Green made a comfortable save.
Meanwhile, an early double substitution by the visitors sparked some life into their offensive efforts, with forward James Littlejohn twice threatening, running onto a pass from defence to lift over Alex Harris’ crossbar and striking a deflected free-kick wide, either side of Cormack being denied by the post from a right-wing cross.
With Okojie’s efforts to complete a hat-trick ending in frustration, and the visitors edging the closing stages without ever troubling Harris, full time confirmed the highest position, points tally (62) and number of goals scored (89) by an Uckfield team in the highest level of county football, completing a momentous season for the Uckers.
On Monday 6th May, Uckfield return with a shot at silverware in their Peter Bentley Cup Final against Saltdean United, a tie hosted at Hassock’s Beacon ground with an 11AM kick-off.
AFC Uckfield Town: Harris, Rodrigues-Barbosa, Cooper, Maddock (Norman, 18’), Ryan Welch, Richie Welch (C), Okojie, Patton, Smith (Mici, 55’), Cormack, Camara (Guimaraes, 76’)
Unused: Hales, Storey