This Bank Holiday Monday, AFC Uckfield Town have the chance to round off a superb 2018-19 season with cup glory as they take on Saltdean United FC in the 2019 Peter Bentley Cup Final, hosted at Hassocks FC (Kick-off 11AM).
Following highly successful league seasons for both sides, Anthony Storey’s Uckfield side finished 7th and Damion Freeman’s Saltdean 5th in the Southern Combination Premier Division; for Uckfield, the highest a club from the town has ever finished, and for Saltdean their highest placing since 3rd in 2000. In their two previous meetings this season, the sides drew 2-2 in October before a 2-1 win for the Tigers at The Oaks in early April.
With Saltdean’s victory in the 1999-2000 final – in which Freeman, then a Tigers player, scored twice – the only occasion on which either side have previously won the competition, the tie presents an opportunity for both sides to make history.
The Uckers were only first formed in 2014, and will particularly have an incentive to lift the trophy that eluded predecessors AFC Uckfield in the 2011-12 final, when they fell to a 2-1 defeat to Three Bridges.
Both sides have scored several impressive victories to reach this season’s Final. In the First Round, the Tigers defeated SCFL Division One side St Francis Rangers 7-0, and went on to overcome three of the four sides that finished above them in the league this season; beating Eastbourne Town (2-1), Newhaven (2-2, 6-5 on penalties), and SCFL champions Chichester City (2-1).
Uckfield are the highest scorers in this season’s competition, and en route to the final eased past Eastbourne United (6-1) and Loxwood (6-0) before a ten-man victory over Peacehaven & Telscombe (3-1), and a dramatic 3-2 win against Horsham YMCA in their Semi-Final.
In other cup exploits, there has also been little to separate the sides this season. Both teams exited the Sussex Senior Cup at the Second Round, while the Uckers went one further than the Tigers in the RUR Cup, losing in the Semi-Finals.
With Uckfield making their mark in the FA Cup and FA Vase, however, through record progress to the Second Qualifying Round and Fourth Round respectively, they do have an edge in recent knockout pedigree. From 20 cup matches this season, the Uckers have lost just four.
As Uckfield chase their first ever senior trophy and Saltdean aim to emulate the heroics of 2000, the competition’s first all-East Sussex final since 2007 will be one to remember whichever way the result goes.