Two second-half goals from Callum Smith struck Peacehaven and Telscombe on the counter as a clinical Uckfield team performance overcame a man disadvantage for an hour to reach the Peter Bentley Cup Semi-Finals, reports Will Hugall.
After coming away pointless from a hard-fought 4-3 defeat at Horsham YMCA the weekend prior, the Uckers made three changes to their starting XI, as Shaun Loft, Matt Maclean and Regan Smith came in for Calum Sherriff, Sam Cooper and Craig Norman.
As Matt Rodrigues-Barbosa fizzed a shot across the face of goal with the first opportunity the hosts fashioned, the tone was set for an action-packed tie.
Although early set-piece chances had used more effectively by the visitors, in the 20th minute, it was the Uckers who took the lead from a dead-ball situation of their own. After Callum Smith had been fouled driving in from the left, Anthony Storey struck a powerful free-kick from 20 yards which sailed beyond Alieu Secka’s reach into the top right corner.
Uckfield’s lead would only last three minutes, however, as Tye’s pressure yielded a long throw from the left that caused chaos in the Uckfield box. After Michael Lloyd’s initial attempt was blocked, the ball broke free at the far post to Fergus Burton to net from point-blank range.
With their coastal rivals exercising several more set-piece routines, the Uckers retained parity with a series of blocks, but in the 36th minute, were reduced to a clear disadvantage. Referee Andrew Senior was advised by his linesman that an elbow had been thrown when jumping to head a Secka goal kick, and Shaun Loft’s dismissal followed.
Resolute in second-half strategy, Uckfield in fact returned the brighter, and Smith regularly outfoxed the Tye backline with fleet-footed running.
Critically, as the visitors profited from the width available to them, Uckers rearguard action was equal to all efforts. After Jake Legrange ghosted to the far post to send a cross into the side-netting, substitute Craig Norman blocked Jake Brocklebank’s promising opportunity, and cleared off his own line as Lloyd connected with a corner.
In the 74th minute, the reward for this tireless backtracking came, through a combination of fortune and cool judgement. Playing out from defence, a long-range pass for Smith to chase seemed to roll into the grasp of Secka, until the goalkeeper and his defender Brandon Kilula both slipped, and the pursuing Smith kept his footing to fire a first-time finish into the open net.
Once more, absolute heroics defied constant Tye pressure, and Matt Maclean in particular shuttled effectively between defence and midfield, before a tremendous hold from Rogers in the 88th minute prevented Scrafton converting with a lifted effort from a powerful right-wing cross.
With Tye creativity exhausted, a throw-in after five added minutes failed to clear the first line of defence, and was cleared to Smith, pacing forward. A sweeping finish into the bottom left corner beat Secka, and the Uckfield victory was sealed.
While the Uckers progress to face Horsham YMCA in the Semi-Finals, this Saturday they again host Peacehaven & Telscombe, with vital league points on offer. Kick-off is 3PM.
AFC Uckfield Town: Rogers, Ryan Welch (Norman, 48’), R. Smith, Richie Welch (C), Loft, Maclean, Okojie, Storey, C. Smith, Rodrigues-Barbosa, Mici (Overton, 63’)
Unused: Bartlett, Broom, Creese