Uckfield salvaged victory from the jaws of defeat, overturning a 2-1 deficit with ten minutes remaining at Broadbridge Heath to importantly end a run of four league matches without a win, reports Will Hugall.
One week on from an unfortunate 1-0 defeat whilst hosting leaders Chichester City, manager Anthony Storey made only one change, as Steve Hickman-Smith returned to stabilise the defence, and allowed skipper Richie Welch to reclaim his defensive midfield berth.
Acclimatising to the open expanse of the Horsham side’s pitch, neither of the sides began strongly, although set-pieces from home captain Tom Howard-Bold and Dee Okojie were met with hesitant defending.
As the error-prone circumstances continued, the sides exchanged goals in a two-minute double salvo. Devon Fender capitalised on Welch’s short clearance to hammer past Louis Rogers after right-back Charlie Leach’s delivery in the 25th minute, but the Uckers response was instant. An Okojie corner into the six-yard box found Matt Maclean, who took advantage of sloppy defending to convert back across goal, after a first block drew cries of handball.
Uckers attacks took precedence after the sucker-punch of their equaliser, but resulted in an array of corners. Ellis Cormack’s curling central free-kick drew a stunning save from Kieron Thorp in the best remaining opportunity, yet the half ended without any great statement.
Quality noticeably improved in the second-half, and Bailo Camara came close to tucking past Thorp when pouncing on a pass handled poorly by the Bears defence, before home midfielder George Cousins lashed a 25-yard shot at Rogers’ goal.
Missed chances held greater risk as the deadlock extended, and as Camara sliced a close-range shot wide, the Bears pounced. In the 61st minute, half-time substitutes Max Howell and Glen Woodburn linked up, splitting from a ball to the right wing as the former squared and the latter clinically thrashed across Rogers.
Unable to establish a foothold, the Uckers attack were thankful for Rogers’ heroic goalkeeping to twice foil Fender – leaping to palm away a fizzing half-volley, and making a block at his near post – before staging a recovery.
80 minutes in, Okojie’s sheer persistence, riding the challenges of several defenders into the Bears box, was rewarded with a lifeline – a penalty, and a second booking for Marlon Maxwell – when finally scythed down. The winger notched up his ninth goal of the season while stroking casually into the bottom left corner.
The Uckers pressed for all three points, but Okojie was twice denied by Thorp’s sharp goalkeeping. Hope of a winning effort never relented, however, and after four minutes of added time, Okojie pierced the home defence with an inswinging right-wing cross and found Maclean, who headed into the bottom right corner for an ecstatically-received winner.
Uckfield return to RUR Cup action this Tuesday as they travel to Newhaven FC for the second time this season, kicking off at 7:45PM.
AFC Uckfield Town: Rogers, Norman, Rodrigues-Barbosa (Loft, 82’), Hickman-Smith, Sherriff, Richie Welch (C), Okojie, Cormack, Cooper (R. Smith, 71’), Maclean, Camara
Unused: Hales, Storey, Ryan Welch
Image Uckfield FM