A hard-fought and ill-tempered contest ended in a 3-0 defeat for AFC Uckfield Town against Newhaven, a result that perhaps disguised the balance of play as the Uckers chased from early on and had a man sent off in each half through frustration as chances went begging, reports Will Hugall.
In an otherwise blank SCFL Premier weekend, the rescheduled fixture saw both sides enter without their best form of the season, but still chasing record points tallies in their respective histories at Sussex’s top tier.
With the visitors set up to counter, their best early chance came from Seb Saunders’ fading half-volley, while Uckfield’s more sustained pressure resulted in slight panic as the Dockers’ Tristan Jarvis hacked at a clearance in his own box, only narrowly avoiding beating his own goalkeeper, Jake Buss.
With referee Carl Smith under consistent pressure from both sides, it was unsurprising that a set-piece brought Newhaven’s opener in the 24th minute, and that controversy continued in the aftermath, as Ebou Jallow’s arm was raised as he met the delivery and lifted a pass into Lee Robinson to head past Alex Harris, although further consultation awarded the goal.
The Uckers struggled to make headway after the goal, and the visitors made use of the space afforded to Ian Robinson on the left, as Robinson struck a rising effort into Harris’ gloves before another move crossing into Seb Saunders, who nodded wide.
Recurring stoppages favoured the visitors, and with Uckfield frustration boiling over, a naïve rush of blood after 42 minutes saw Regan Smith leave a foot in on Tom Cooklin and be shown a straight red card, leaving the home side’s hopes in limbo.
Newhaven’s preference to counter did not gain great advantage from the sending-off, however, and Uckfield began the second half stronger. On the peripheries in the first half, Callum Smith had the chance to level only minutes in, with Dee Okojie shrugging off Ian Robinson at the by-line from a rapid counter-attack before squaring into the six-yard box, where Smith’s shot was blocked.
In their efforts to force an unlikely equaliser, however, gaps in the Uckfield defence opened, with Lee Robinson claiming for a penalty in a tussle with Ryan Welch, and full-back Freddie Beale passing over the chance to shoot for Ian Robinson, who drove low at Harris’ left post.
Still the side in control, Uckfield’s opportunities suffered more clearly from a numerical disadvantage in the final 15 minutes, as Bailo Camara outfought the Dockers at a drop-ball and delivered a teasing cross, but was without a target in the box.
For all their efforts, the Uckers finally lost the game in the 80th minute through a defensive error, as Ryan Welch’s clearance fell to Henry Watson, whose cross from 20 yards found Jallow in space to prod into the bottom right corner.
Worse was to follow, as Tayler Maddock’s late tackle, attempting to press for any comeback, earned the defender a second booking. With just nine men, Uckfield soldiered on, and conciliatory chances arrived, with Welch close to profiting as Buss spilled a free-kick, Smith misjudging a final touch in a one-on-one, and Camara lifting a cross-cum-shot into Buss’ far corner to force an impressive save.
Twisting the knife once more, Newhaven capped victory in the 93rd minute as Jarvis was not penalised for a handball in midfield and Lee Robinson slotted in from close range after a cross from the left.
Uckfield return to action next Saturday, with a final away game of the league season seeing them travel to Little Common, kicking off at 3PM.
AFC Uckfield Town: Harris, Rodrigues-Barbosa, R. Smith, Maddock, Ryan Welch, Richie Welch (C), Okojie, Patton (Cooper, 54’), C. Smith, Maclean (Cormack, 64’), Camara
Unused: Mici, Norman, Samways