A closely contested match between AFC Uckfield Town and Broadbridge Heath ended in the Uckers’ joint-record league win of the season, but was far from comfortable until a ten-minute second-half spell where the visitors crumbled on route to a 6-1 defeat, reports Will Hugall.
Having fallen to a 4-2 defeat against a superb Eastbourne Town side in midweek, Anthony Storey’s team showed three changes for the visit of a side just one point below them, as Tayler Maddock, Dee Okojie and Matt Maclean re-entered the fray.
After a 3-2 Uckers win when the sides last met in October, recent form was encouraging for both, as the game’s early stages proved when counter-attacking opportunities came and went, and the two best chances – Jamie Taylor’s point-blank finish from a free-kick, and Bailo Camara forcing a tremendous save from James Marsh – were ruled out for a foul and offside.
In the 25th minute, an inspired moment from striker Callum Smith broke the deadlock, as a ball upfield from Louis Rogers found the Uckers frontman in plentiful space, and a sliced right-footed finish from 20 yards found the left of Marsh’s goal.
Ruled onside from an overlap in the Bears’ box, Smith should have had a second in the 37th minute, as a pass from Matt Maclean set him through against Marsh, but his effort scraped the outside of the left post.
By the 45th minute, a disjointed half appeared to have been capped off perfectly for the Uckers, with their second goal, a well-worked move starting from Richie Welch’s clearance at right-back and ending in Brett Patton’s darting effort onto the Heath crossbar, from which Maclean swept home. In the fifth and final minute of added time, however, the Bears had one back, with captain Tom Bold’s corner delivery meeting centre-back Ryan Brackpool to head in.
With the Bears coming back out with a more assertive approach, they caused a number of scares for the hosts, although Callum Smith’s booking – ruled to have dived as Andy Waddingham blocked an effort of his – and subsequent withdrawal, was a self-inflicted jolt to the Uckers.
In the 60th minute, and with the Bears looking the more likely to score, Camara led another counter on the left-wing. With his cross cleared only as far as Welch, the Uckfield skipper’s hook to the right of the box was headed in by Smith’s replacement, Ellis Cormack, and so began a swift series of knockout blows.
Five minutes on, a controversial fourth goal from Camara, as Okojie swept a pass into an empty Bears half, a flick-on was ruled to have come from Bold rather than Maclean, and the winger turned Marsh before sweeping home, led to the expulsion of a member of the Bears bench.
Another four minutes later, sub Gianfranco Mici crossed from the right and Cormack controlled in the middle, before flicking into Okojie’s path for the simplest of finishes; tucking home at Marsh’s near post.
Although the visitors arguably had the better of the remaining period – Devon Fender with the best of their chances when his shot went through the Rogers’ hands and came back off his right post – there was still time for the Uckers to twist the knife once more, as in the first minute of added time Maclean grabbed his second, a half-volley crashed home after a Marsh goal-kick.
Surpassing their 2017-18 season points and goal tallies with victory against the Bears, the Uckers set their sights on another crucial game, their Peter Bentley Cup Semi-Final, against Horsham YMCA this Wednesday, kicking off at 7:30PM at Shoreham FC’s Middle Road.
AFC Uckfield Town: Rogers, Cooper, Rodrigues-Barbosa (Ryan Welch, 75’), Hickman-Smith, Maddock, Richie Welch (C), Okojie, Patton (Mici, 66’), Smith (Cormack, 53’), Maclean, Camara
Unused: Moore, Storey