In the fourth of five meetings with Eastbourne United AFC this season, and the third of five visits to The Oval, AFC Uckfield Town begin their SCFL Premier Division action for the new decade this Saturday in familiar fashion, but with plenty to prove as they aim for further progress, writes Will Hugall.
While ending with two postponements, the 2019 calendar year was a remarkable one for Uckfield – featuring a Peter Bentley Cup Final, RUR Cup Semi-Final and two separate league campaigns filled with promise, amongst other achievements.
Almost three weeks ago, the Uckers’ last action for the 2010s saw them seal a hard-fought 3-2 win at Steyning Town, extending an unbeaten league run to seven matches in the process, and creating optimism that such form can be converted in this season’s second half.
While most Premier Division sides are close to completing half of their 2019-20 fixtures, however, things may be slightly more difficult for Anthony Storey’s side as they still sit on 15 matches played, without a home game for two months, and have two remaining opportunities for cup glory in the weeks ahead.
In a season which has almost mirrored their 2018-19 so far, that is unlikely to faze the side, but they will certainly be hoping that they can return to action this weekend in an effort to both clear the calendar and continue their impressive form.
Matt Crabb’s United side present a test this weekend that the Uckers might at least hope they have become accustomed to at this stage of the season, after a 2-1 league defeat in August and subsequent 3-0 and 1-0 cup victories at The Oval during what is now an 11-match away streak.
Those defeats to the Uckers have been part of a wider steadying of form for United, who began life under player-manager Crabb with seven straight victories, but have since won four of ten games since the start of November.
Their last outing was with the traditional Boxing Day visit of neighbours Eastbourne Town, and in going down 4-0 to this season’s SCFL pacesetters, United suffered their sixth consecutive defeat in the fixture – one which they will be keen to avenge this weekend.
The coastal outfit sit just one point above the Uckers in 7th place – having completed four more matches – and with Storey’s side being the only opponent other than Town, or Steyning, to prevent United from winning every home game since the start of September, that frustration will surely inspire the hosts.
A coincidence about the fixture – albeit in the context of three postponed matches at The Oaks in the past two months – is that it also marks the ninth consecutive calendar year that either AFC Uckfield Town, or predecessors AFC Uckfield, have opened with an away fixture. With just three previous wins on such occasions, however, the Uckers may want to look elsewhere for good omens.
Either way, with both United and the Uckers sat amongst a cluster of sides separated by just four points between 6th and 13th at present, the match will prove crucial to momentum at least in the short-term; giving the winners the chance to narrow the gap on the top five, while the losers could be overtaken by any number of those in pursuit.
In such a context, the meeting could be another classic between two well-matched sides both potentially approaching a turning point in their seasons, and is sure to produce high drama throughout.
Eastbourne United Association FC v AFC Uckfield Town kicks off at 3 p.m. this Saturday at The Oval (Eastbourne, BN22 7LN), with directions to the ground available here; http://www.scfl.org.uk/grounddetail.php?gnd_id=16.
Admission is £6 for Adults, £3 for Concessions and free for Under-16s.
Regular updates will be available throughout the game from the @AfcUckfieldTown and @eastbourneuafc Twitter pages, while a full report will appear here on Uckfield FM in the hours after the game.
Come on you Uckers!