For the first time in nine seasons, AFC Uckfield Town reached the Sussex Senior Cup Third Round as a 3-0 win at in-form Eastbourne United saw them overcome tricky conditions and a dogged challenge from the hosts to prevail, reports Will Hugall.
With the tie already a rarity for its scheduling on Bonfire Night, an unpredictable game played out on a slick Oval pitch, and though the Uckers were unable to demonstrate the best of their ability, they struck when required to ensure a largely comfortable progression.
As fireworks were set off all around them, the Uckers were in control from kick-off and after only five minutes were ahead, as Dee Okojie demonstrated his trickery on the left, and with the United defence exposed he squared to Liam Baitup, who thrashed low past Jordan Hawkins just inside the box.
From that point, it was the hosts who tended to offer the better play, and as they frustrated the Uckers with the majority of possession went close through Kane Penn, who struck the post from a free kick before Alfie Headland rattled the crossbar from the resulting corner.
As errors became more common, chances became fewer as Nathan Crabb shot speculatively wide for the hosts after the half-hour mark.
While United still looked the more likely scorers, it was the Uckers who actually grabbed the decisive next goal, coming in the second minute of added time as Okojie and Ellis Cormack broke, finding Baitup on the right. Firing high at Hawkins’ net, Baitup’s shot came back out to Matt Maclean, who powered a shot just over the line on the underside of the crossbar.
With United aiming to get back in the game, the first chance of the second half was theirs as Ryan Welch made a vital block against Sam Schaaf.
From effectively the next move, however, the Uckers capitalised again to grab their third goal, with Okojie’s cross blocked on the left and Ellis Cormack the next to try his luck, and possibly with the help of the wind curling in off the far post, beating Hawkins in the 56th minute.
Totally in control from that point, the Uckers managed to improve in several areas, and while they had few serious chances of their own, were largely untroubled in their own half.
With Phil Hawkins collecting a half-volley from Schaaf, Headland firing wide and Penn flashing a shot across the face of goal as Schaaf was inches off a finish, the Uckers were able to hold onto their clean sheet.
Though they just missed out on a fourth goal, which could have come from their late pressing, the Uckers were comfortably through and will enter the Third Round draw when it takes place in the next fortnight’s time, with any of a number of big clubs potentially in wait.
For now, the Uckers hope to return to action this weekend, hosting Steyning Town this Saturday at The Oaks, kicking off at 3 p.m. in the SCFL Premier Division. That game will be subject to a pitch inspection, with news on that available via @AfcUckfieldTown on Twitter and Uckfield FM in the coming days.
AFC Uckfield Town: Hawkins, Rodrigues-Barbosa, Cooper, Ryan Welch, Maddock, Richie Welch (C) (Storey, 86’), Okojie, Maclean, Baitup, Cormack (Scott, 57’), Camara
Unused: Smith, Alexander, Loft
Images (c) Mike Skinner