Rediscovering some of their most ruthless attacking form, Uckfield put on a Bank Holiday Monday show with a good-natured and entertaining 4-1 victory against Lingfield, effectively ensuring a top-eight finish with one match of the season remaining, reports Will Hugall.
With the two sides evenly matched on home and away records this season, and the Lingers picking up only one more point than the Uckers in their previous 12 matches, a close match was expected, but never truly materialised as a weakened Lingfield side was selected with an eye on their Surrey Premier Cup Final two days later.
Uckfield – whose own three changes saw Gianfranco Mici start in attack, and Steve Hickman-Smith and Ryan Welch in defence – had the majority of possession from early on, and after just six minutes were ahead. After a throw-in in the Uckers’ half, a simple drive upfield saw Mici find space on the edge of the Lingfield box, and after a step-over the forward stroked a finish into the bottom right corner.
After Mici almost met Sam Cooper’s squared pass from a counter-attack, and Ellis Cormack and Brett Patton both went close inside the Lingfield box, in the 19th minute Patton doubled Uckfield’s lead, finishing a switch from left to right with a strike inside goalkeeper Dan Burnett’s right post.
With the visitors unable to stem the flow of attacks, Richie Welch and Dee Okojie both tried their luck from promising free-kick positions, and between the two chances Bailo Camara and Dee Okojie linked up, almost finding Mici for a central finish.
The final minutes of the first half heralded two more promising opportunities for Okojie, but as the winger was closed down by Burnett from Mici’s through ball, and struck wide after Camara found him in space, the visitors avoided further misery.
The stronger second-half start came from Lingfield, however, and after five minutes they halved the deficit, as Alex Harris barged into Spencer Clements attempting to punch a cross, and Charlie Nash converted the resulting penalty into the bottom-right corner.
With Uckfield restoring their superiority, hopes of an away comeback ended abruptly in the 56th minute as Sam Cooper’s long throw from the left sailed through the Lingfield defence, and Okojie hooked back across goal to beat Burnett.
The Uckers again dominated after the hour, as Camara and Cormack twice linked up to go close, and Camara was blocked by Chris Robinson from an Okojie cross. Making matters even worse for the visitors, the resulting corner saw Nash slide in late on Welch to earn his second booking.
Despite spending the final 20 minutes with ten men, the visitors dealt well with continuous Uckfield pressure, restricting the Uckers’ best chances to set-pieces and long-range efforts, as Mici and Emerson Guimaraes fired over, and Okojie had a goal-bound drive blocked.
Although harsh on the Lingers, Camara still had time to score a richly deserved goal in the third minute of added time, controlling a ball lifted over the visitors’ defence and slotting in to the bottom left corner to wrap up the win.
In what will be the Uckers’ final game of the league season before May’s Peter Bentley Cup Final, one last home match sees them welcome Hassocks to The Oaks this Saturday, kicking off at 3PM.
AFC Uckfield Town: Harris, Guimaraes, Cooper, Hickman-Smith (Norman, 63’), Ryan Welch, Richie Welch (C), Okojie, Patton, Mici, Cormack (Hales, 75’), Camara
Unused: Samways, Creese, Storey
All images Mike Skinner