AFC Uckfield Town exit FA Vase in thrilling tie

AFC Uckfield Town’s record-breaking FA Vase run came to an end at the Fourth Round stage, as visitors Windsor won a pulsating match 4-1 after racing into an early two-goal lead and grabbing opportune second-half strikes to survive the Uckers pressure that otherwise controlled the match, reports Will Hugall.

For the tie, boss Anthony Storey was strengthened by the return of a number of key players, restoring centre-backs Steve Hickman-Smith and Calum Sherriff, alongside Regan Smith, Ellis Cormack and Callum Smith in five changes.

Demonstrating their intent from the kick-off, the visitors from Berkshire went close through George Gould’s header over the Uckfield crossbar, before just two minutes in they were ahead. Capitalising on a Louis Rogers goal kick, Kieran Knight found strike partner Dan Roberts with a defence-splitting pass, and the forward slotted past an onrushing Rogers into the bottom right corner.

Continuing their pressure via two inswinging corners which forced desperate Uckers clearances, the Royalists used their early advantage to double their lead in the 11th minute. As Uckfield failed to clear their lines on the halfway line, Richie Welch’s cross-field pass was deflected into Roberts’ path, allowing the striker to race past both centre-backs, round Rogers and tap in.

Just three minutes later, however, the Uckers were back in the tie, thanks to the determination of Callum Smith. As Rogers collected from an ambitious Windsor free-kick, a kick deep into the opposition half was flicked on and found Smith in the 18-yard box, who used the ball’s trajectory to head over goalkeeper Hugo Sobte and into the right of the goal, his seventh goal from four Vase matches.
Only minutes later, Smith could have had a second after cutting inside from the left wing, but struck over the crossbar, and soon followed up by firing into Sobte after Cormack headed a free-kick back across the box.

Despite having the better of an end-to-end affair for much of the half, the Uckers were reliant on Rogers’ composure to prevent Roberts from grabbing another, intercepting the ball at the forward’s feet, and had to bide their time to break down a stubborn backline.

Although starting the stronger in the second-half, the Uckers were caught out by a familiar threat in the 49th minute, as a ball over both centre-backs set Knight through, and Rogers’ attempts to reclaim possession resulted in a penalty. Robert Lazarczuk duly rifled in from 12 yards, sending Rogers the wrong way to restore his side’s two-goal cushion.

Uckfield’s offensive contingent again seized the initiative afterwards, and penetrated the densely packed Windsor box as Ellis Cormack struck the right upright from Dee Okojie’s pull-back, and Callum Smith latched onto Welch’s chip into the six-yard box before blasting a shot across goal, but agonisingly beating the far post.

Smith’s tireless pressure ensured the Uckers looked dangerous at every attack, but as the striker’s ball through to Camara set up a one-on-one with Sobte, both an outstanding save and an offside call meant further frustration.

In the 75th minute, the Uckers’ hopes were over as Roberts bagged his hat-trick, running in at the far post to tuck a looping cross from the left past Rogers. Although their valiant efforts to the final whistle threw everything at the Windsor goal, Uckfield were powerless to recover, but could hold every pride in their performance.

After record FA Cup and Vase runs, the Uckers reach the halfway stage of their league season this Tuesday as they travel to Shoreham, with a 7:45PM kick-off.

AFC Uckfield Town: Rogers, Rodrigues-Barbosa, R. Smith, Hickman-Smith, Sherriff, Richie Welch (C), Okojie (Mici, 81’), Patton, C. Smith (Black, 79’), Cormack (Loft, 72’), Camara
Unused: Ryan Welch, Astle

All images by Ron Hill (Hill Photographic)