Rounding off a fine week in style, a comprehensive counter-attacking performance from an AFC Uckfield Town side lacking fluency in league action won them their return at Pagham, as Matt Rodrigues-Barbosa’s first-half goal and a solid defensive account throughout ensured they edged a challenging test from the Lions, reports Will Hugall.
After the 50-plus-mile journey, the Uckers adjusted well to the conditions in West Sussex and played confidently throughout, preventing the hosts building momentum with a goal midway through the first half and going on to reach five league matches unbeaten ahead of a crucial run of games.
With Nyetimber Lane having avoided any rain, the only issues for either side early on proved to be the coastal breeze, and even in that context, a quiet first few minutes owed more to the respect both sides gave to one another.
Indeed, despite a recent history of goals in the fixture, much of the first half was dominated by a tight midfield battle between the teams, and amongst a few half-chances before the half-hour mark, Ryan Welch intervened crucially for the Uckers from a dangerous Lions cross.
In the 31st minute, however, the complexion of the match changed dramatically, and it was the Uckers who took advantage to score – unsurprisingly, it was a clinical counter that delivered Matt Rodrigues-Barbosa the opportunity to take on the Lions defence from the right of the box, and the winger fired past Jordan Matthews at his near post.
Importantly, Anthony Storey’s side were able to protect their lead going into half-time, while the hosts continued to control possession; Phil Hawkins kept busy by having to make a vital stop late on at his bottom corner.
That sense of frustration for the hosts continued after the break, as Liam Baitup had the first real glimpse of goal for either side only two minutes in, and drew a fine save from Matthews with Rodrigues-Barbosa in close attendance.
Kerry Hardwell’s outfit reasserted themselves afterwards, but with wave after wave of attack were unable to seriously trouble the Uckers, and beyond the hour mark looked in danger of failing to score at home for only the fourth time this season.
Refereeing decisions also tended to disrupt any flow, but it was the Uckers defensive performance that was soon starting to run down the clock as Pagham struggled, with Hawkins making another strong stop after being booked.
Ellis Cormack then had a curling shot saved into the final ten minutes as the Uckers attempted to seal the three points, finding Matthews in good form as the story of a match of few overall chances ended up with a grandstand finish.
It was in added time that the hosts finally looked most likely to salvage any points, and from a flurry of set-pieces, substitute Jake Heryet had the best opportunity of any Lions player from a half-cleared corner but saw his powerful drive blocked, as the Uckers eked out all three points.
Having improved to 10th place in the SCFL Premier Division, the Uckers return to action this Tuesday as they head Steyning Town FC, where they will have the chance to leapfrog the Barrowmen into 8th place if they are able to beat the in-form promoted side.
Kick-off will be 7:45 p.m. at the Shooting Field, and a full preview of the match will follow soon here on Uckfield FM.
AFC Uckfield Town: Hawkins, Rodrigues-Barbosa (Pearson, 90’), Cooper, Ryan Welch McGuigan, Richie Welch (C), Okojie, Maclean, Baitup (Smith, 85’), Cormack, Camara
Unused: Samways, Ovenden, Loft
Credit to Graham Sullivan / @AfcUckfieldTown Twitter for the basis of this report.
You can read the report from the Bognor Regis Observer here.
Image – Mike Skinner