In a classic match containing fearless attacking football, as well as two penalties and a decisive hat-trick from striker Matt Black, AFC Uckfield Town recorded their biggest ever victory against opponents Newhaven as they overcame a resolute challenge to win 4-2 and send a statement of intent to their league rivals, reports Will Hugall.
With both sides coming off cup victories the week previous and missing one or two key players, it was a test of the squad depth available to each manager, and Uckers boss Anthony Storey’s attacking line-up did not disappoint as they eventually pulled clear of a Dockers side that never managed to edge in front.
Amongst four Uckers changes, the first goal of the afternoon after 10 minutes was a story of two combining, with home debutant Tyler Pearson receiving possession on the right and driving past three Newhaven defenders, before dragging back from the by-line to find Liam Baitup, who crashed a near-post finish high into Jake Buss’ goal.
While Uckfield worked the wings, and continued to threaten as Baitup and Ellis Cormack were denied, it was the visitors who would level in the 27th minute as they took advantage of a rare opening. With Callum Connor pushed by Regan Smith whilst marauding into the box, Ebou Jallow took the resulting spot-kick, and beat Hawkins with a measured finish into the bottom right corner.
The scores would not be level for long, however, as in the 30th minute a goal in peculiar circumstances saw Uckfield edge ahead again. With Tayler Maddock colliding with referee Jake Woodman in the build-up, Woodman got back to his feet to award a headed finish from Matt Black, with the striker planting into the top right corner after Cormack had nodded back a cross from the left.
Despite further chances before the break, the next goal would arrive only moments into the second half, with Black taking the initiative, as he turned with possession on the left and cut inside with a series of step-overs, and being amply rewarded, clipping a finish through a number of bodies to find the far post netting.
Connor and Lukas Franzen-Jones would both go down just inside the Uckfield box minutes later, and with the second challenge resulting in a second Dockers spot-kick, Jallow again stepped up, nervously clipping in off the left post to reduce arrears.
Another nervy spell in the game was waiting to be broken, and as the Uckers delivered a throw from the right, Baitup lifted a cross to the far post and Cormack craned his head back to find Black, so it would be in the 67th minute, with Black securing his hat-trick with a header planted out of Buss’ reach.
Baitup could have had his second when striking wide from a Dee Okojie cross, and Black was unfortunate not to have a fourth, with Jayson Sowter clearing off the line, as the Uckers took advantage of a tiring Newhaven defence, but while Tigana Quebé drew a final save from Buss at his near post, the game was over – the Uckers taking their second set of three points this season.
Replacing the Dockers at 7th in the table for now, the Uckers return to action at The Oaks this Tuesday evening, kicking off at 7:45 p.m. as they hunt more points against 14th-placed Eastbourne United. Entry is £6 for adults, £3 for concessions, and children go free.
AFC Uckfield Town: Hawkins, Rodrigues-Barbosa, Smith, Sherriff, Maddock, Richie Welch (C), Pearson (Okojie, 57’), Maclean (James, 88’), Black (Quebé, 79’), Cormack, Baitup
Unused: Loft, Ryan Welch