Uckfield Sport – A Round-Up of Highlights of 2019

Another outstanding year for AFC Uckfield Town

After their memorable, history-making year in 2018, it has been another outstanding 12 months for AFC Uckfield Town in league and cup.

The club reached new heights by finishing in seventh place in the Southern Combination League Premier Division – the highest-ever finish for a team from Uckfield and up from 14th in the previous season.  Equally impressive was the tally of 89 goals in the league campaign, with only the top three teams scoring more.

Once again, Uckfield saved some of their best performances for cup competitions.  In two epic battles against higher-ranked VCD Athletic in this season’s FA Cup, Uckfield came from 3-1 down to earn a 3-3 draw, before the teams drew 1-1 in the replay at the Oaks, only for the Uckers to suffer the agony of narrowly losing out in the penalty shootout.  In the national FA Vase, an excellent 3-2 win at high-flying Walthamstow sparked hopes of another good run, before a disappointing trip to Berkshire resulted in a 4-0 defeat by Binfield.  That loss was swiftly followed by an exit from the Sussex Senior Cup, as Uckfield were beaten 2-0 at Eastbourne Borough, but only after a spirited display against a team three tiers higher in the non-league pyramid.

However, going into the New Year, Uckfield remain in two other cup competitions, including the Peter Bentley Cup, where they will hope to go one better than last year, when they went down to a 3-1 defeat by Saltdean in the final.  Again, Uckfield showed tremendous spirit, as they finished the game with nine men after two red cards.

Progress in the various cups and frustrations with the weather have meant that Uckfield have latterly fallen behind with their league programme.  However, with several games in hand on all the teams above them in the top half of the table, Uckfield will be looking to take advantage and string together a run of wins in the New Year that will hopefully see the team challenge for a place in the top six.

Away from first-team success, Uckfield’s under-23 side enjoyed a brilliant season, winning an unprecedented treble in their field.

Huge credit goes to all the players, the management and coaching staff, committee members and backroom team for all their hard work and dedication over the past year, as AFC Uckfield Town look forward to making further progress in 2020 in manager Anthony Storey’s fourth full season in charge.

Elsewhere in local football, the incredible success story of Ridgewood FC continued, as they clinched second place and promotion from Division One of the Mid Sussex League.  Astonishingly, this was Ridgewood’s eighth consecutive promotion!  The team have made solid start to the current season in the next level up, and yet another promotion is still a possibility.

And finally in football, there was further recognition in 2019 of the immense contribution that the Uckfield Grasshoppers Junior Football Club makes to our local community in providing opportunities for young boys and girls.  The Grasshoppers picked up the prestigious Sussex County FA Grassroots Club of the Year award at a ceremony at Brighton’s Amex Stadium in September.

Third time lucky for Uckfield rugby club

After narrowly missing out on promotion for the previous two seasons, it was a case of third time lucky for Uckfield rugby club, as they secured the Sussex Division One title and promotion to London 3 South East.  Uckfield finished their league campaign an impressive 17 points clear, having lost only two games all season.  Uckfield gained a second piece of silverware with victory over local rivals Burgess Hill in the final of the Harveys of Sussex Shield.

Understandably, Uckfield have found it tougher going in the current campaign against stronger opposition, mainly from established teams in Kent.  But, after losing their first five matches of the season, Uckfield rallied with a run of four wins out of six, leaving them just above the relegation places at the halfway point in the season.

Disappointment for Uckfield Anderida

It was a disappointing summer for Uckfield Anderida Cricket Club.  Despite several close finishes, they managed only one win all season, and relegation from Division Seven East of the Sussex Cricket League became inevitable.  However, it was a season to remember for Uckfield captain and prolific batsman David Tungate.  He not only topped the run-scoring charts in Uckfield’s division, but he was also the second highest scorer across the entire Sussex League.  Tungate hit over 1,000 runs for the second consecutive season, including four hundreds.

Despite being in contention for much of the season, Buxted Park again narrowly missed out on promotion.  But, congratulations go to Isfield and Fletching, who comfortably won their respective leagues.  Elsewhere, in a dramatic end to their season, Newick won their final day decider with Heathfield Park to avoid relegation.

Good year for Uckfield bowls

Staying with summer sports, it was a good year for Uckfield Bowls Club, who achieved second position in the Mid Sussex League Division 1, which was quite a turnaround having narrowly avoided relegation the previous year.  They also finished in third place in the John Spriggs League Division 1 and fifth in the Horam League.  Meanwhile, at the club’s Finals Day, Peter Daly and Di Wilson won the men’s and women’s singles titles respectively.

Progressive year for Maresfield tennis club

Maresfield Lawn Tennis Club had a busy 2019, progressing a number of new and improved facilities.  On the court, the Maresfield Ladies Tennis team enjoyed a highly successful season by finishing runners-up to Roehampton in the South East Regional League, after defeating Queens Club in their final match of the season.  Maresfield lost only one game throughout the summer, in which they competed against several bigger clubs.

The Parkrun comes to Uckfield

The Uckfield Runners club continues to go from strength to strength, with another strong turnout of members for the traditional spring marathons in Brighton and London and the ever popular Beachy Head Marathon in October, in which Stuart Mills finished in an amazing sixth place.

But, the most exciting news on the local running scene was undoubtedly the establishment of the Uckfield Parkrun.  The weekly Parkrun, which takes place every Saturday morning, is a free timed event that is open to everyone who wishes to run, jog or walk over a five kilometre course, which starts and finishes at Uckfield rugby club and is run mainly around Buxted Park.  The Uckfield Parkrun attracted over 300 runners to its inaugural run in May, and thanks to the ongoing support of a dedicated team of volunteers, it is now a firmly established community event for the town.

Further success for local gymnasts and trampolinists

There was further success in 2019 for many of our local gymnasts who train with the Uckfield Gymnastics Club.  At this year’s South East Regional Championships, there were medals for Betsy George, Maya Arno, Layla Grayling and Elsa Pawson, whilst there was also a string of outstanding results across the age ranges at the Sussex Championships.  Meanwhile, several other gymnasts from the club were rewarded for their excellent performances by being selected for the regional and county squads.

It has been an exciting year for the Sky High Trampoline Gymnastics Academy, based at the Funabounds Centre in Uckfield, as they marked their 10th anniversary with a series of brilliant results on the national and international stage.

Particular congratulations go to 12 year-old Alex Oakley, who produced an outstanding performance representing Great Britain in the recent World Age Group Trampolining Championships in Tokyo.  Alex made it through qualification to reach the final of the 11-12 men’s double mini-trampoline event (DMT), in which he came in seventh place, also achieving a personal best score.  Alex has also been selected for the England DMT squad for the coming year, which will mean he has the opportunity to compete for England in international competitions in 2020.  Other Sky High gymnasts to be selected for the squad are Abi Jacques, Erifilly Heonos, Daniel Bradford and Harper Winlet.

Meanwhile, Erifilly won a bronze medal in the Senior Women’s DMT final at the British Championships in Birmingham in September.  The club also picked up a silver and three bronze trophies at the International Trampoline Friendship Cup in the Czech Republic.

Local heroes

 There were other notable achievements from local sportsmen and women in 2019.

These included Natalie Miller, who went to Uckfield College.  Natalie overcame a serious injury to be able to take part and be selected as captain of England at the World Indoor Netball Championships in South Africa in August.

Cyclist Sally Turner came second in her age group representing Great Britain at the UCI World Cycling Time Trial Championships in Poland, missing out on a gold medal by just 15 seconds.

And finally, a special mention goes to young pole-vaulter Jack Harris, who was the winner of the Sports Person of the Year award at this year’s Uckfield FM Community Awards.

Congratulations to all our local sports clubs and local sportsmen and women for their achievements in 2019, and particular mention again goes to all the unsung heroes who volunteer their time in so many ways behind the scenes to help Uckfield maintain a thriving sporting community.  Uckfield FM wishes all its local teams and sportspeople continued success in 2020.

David Eggleston

December 2019