On an evening where all four Quarter-Finals are set to take place together, AFC Uckfield Town face a crucial match against Eastbourne United tonight (Tuesday 10th) in the SCFA RUR Cup, making the second of an unlikely set of three cup visits to The Oval this season, writes Will Hugall.
Having been set to face SCFL Premier Division leaders Eastbourne Town last weekend before suffering a waterlogged pitch, this is the Uckers’ second cup trip to the East Sussex coast in the space of a week – following a 2-0 defeat at Eastbourne Borough in the Sussex Senior Cup.
The break from action will, inevitably, frustrate the Uckers in some regards; certainly as it prolongs a wait for home football, given current scheduling, to Boxing Day, after their last fixture at The Oaks was played on October 26th.
While they do have games to catch up on in the months ahead – currently having played four matches fewer than most league rivals – Anthony Storey’s side may also appreciate the opportunity to channel their focus on cup competitions, where despite two recent exits they have been impressive this season.
The RUR Cup is one of two competitions in which they currently remain for 2019-20, with the other being the Peter Bentley Cup, in which, also at the Quarter-Final stage, they are set to learn of a date for another Oval visit soon.
Of course, in the early months of 2019, it was the Peter Bentley Cup in which Storey’s team made a run all the way to the Final, and the RUR Cup in which they faced Semi-Final elimination.
Even in a defeat to Peacehaven & Telscombe that avoided the SCFA’s season-ending cup final double-header becoming a two-weekend affair, though, the side achieved their furthest run since the 2010-11 season and will hope for similar nerve in knockout conditions tonight.
Indeed, the winners could well face Mark Shutt’s Peacehaven in the Semi-Finals, as the prize for victory at The Oval is a home tie against the winners of the last Quarter-Final between Tye and SCFL Division One side Wick.
It would, naturally, require conditions to be playable tonight for any such schedules to be sorted, however. With rain forecast, a pitch inspection will be likely at The Oval at least two hours prior to kick-off, potentially meaning the tie could not be played until after Christmas if a postponement does follow.
Providing an inspection is passed, though, a superb fixture should be in order, as two previous meetings have seen United win a league battle 2-1 and the Uckers a Senior Cup tie 3-0.
In what is developing into a seriously impressive season, United – under the guidance of Matt Crabb – certainly have the pedigree to become challengers across several competitions.
Having improved their league position last weekend to 4th, attentions could be placed on becoming primary challengers to a dominant top three this season. In the process, and although only in principle at the moment, such a result would earn them their highest league finish since the 2008-09 season, when they won the Sussex County League title.
After the Uckers originally stopped the eight-match winning spell of Crabb’s side last month with a 3-0 Sussex Senior Cup win, a tricky bunch of league fixtures has seen United gradually return to form, with wins against Crawley Down Gatwick and Lingfield in their last two matches.
Comprehensive victories against two Division One sides – 5-0 against Storrington, and 8-0 over Southwick – have seen them make this stage in the competition, while for the Uckers, this tie continues a run built on the road after defeating Horsham YMCA 3-1 and Broadbridge Heath 4-3 to reach the last eight.
Who will earn their place amongst the competition’s final four clubs, however, will depend entirely on how the two sides match up in the third of five meetings this season, and – as familiarity is being gained – how successful either is able to be in exploiting previous sources of strength.
Pending a pitch inspection, Eastbourne United AFC v AFC Uckfield Town kicks off at 7:45 p.m. tonight at The Oval (Eastbourne, BN22 7LN).
Admission is £6 for adults, £3 for concessions, and free for under-18s.
Regular match updates, as ever, will be provided throughout the game by the @AfcUckfieldTown Twitter page, while a full report will be available from the match on the Uckfield FM website in the hours afterwards.
Come on you Uckers!