In an action-packed game influenced by sodden conditions, AFC Uckfield Town and visitors Little Common played out two contrasting halves, but it was the Uckers who held on to a commanding early lead to win 3-1 and reach the Peter Bentley Cup Quarter-Finals, reports Will Hugall.
It was an interesting test throughout for the Uckers, who despite leading 3-0 after 20 minutes and playing the second half against ten men did not have things all their own way – the visitors threatening a comeback at points, but ultimately undone by a poor start.
That tale of the opening period began in just the 3rd minute, as the Uckers’ first attack saw them open the scoring, with Bailo Camara driving in from the left and reaching the by-line before a lay-off to the unmarked Liam Baitup, who gratefully stroked in past Matt Cruttwell.
The lead could have immediately been doubled, as Baitup met Matt Rodrigues-Barbosa’s chipped pass and struck at the onrushing Cruttwell, while Bailo Camara forced the ‘keeper to tip onto his crossbar.
On his first start of the season however, it was Anthony Storey who struck the key blow in the 9th minute, finishing a well-worked team move by coolly firing into the top left corner from Baitup had laid off from Dee Okojie’s cross.
Last season’s finalists were not yet done, and after being denied from a quickfire trio of chances finally had their third in the 18th minute, with Baitup grabbing his second, meeting a corner from Storey with a fine header into the top left corner.
Rather than folding at that point, however, the visitors persevered, with their first opportunity arriving as Lewis Parsons headed just wide of Phil Hawkins’ left post from a free kick.
The Green Lane Boys continued their recovery by limiting Uckers chances for the rest of the half, with only Ellis Cormack’s drive to Cruttwell’s near post and a late flicked header from Baitup, which fell wide of the left post, threatening to put further distance between the teams.
As the sides left the field, a scuffle ensued, and after the break it became clear that Parsons had been sent off in the incident, with the visitors down to ten men and almost suffering further misery when Cormack met a cross from Camara early on, with Cruttwell making an important save.
Despite their disadvantage, in the 54th minute Common responded defiantly and managed to pull a goal back, with Tayler Maddock failing to win possession on the left and Sam Ellis dashing to the by-line before dragging back to captain Lewis Hole, who fired into the right of the goal.
The Uckers did not ignore that warning, and at the other end Baitup was unfortunate not to secure his hat-trick, prompting a superb reaction stop from Cruttwell’s left boot from close range, although Wes Tate wasted another Common chance minutes later by lashing over from the right of the box.
The Uckers managed to slow the action after the hour mark, and also had the chance to add to their advantage, only for Shaun Loft to direct an effort just wide when Storey found him from a corner.
The final ten minutes became an end-to-end battle, with Ryan Paul heading a corner over and Sam Cruttwell firing a 20-yard blast into Loft, while Camara twice blazed over the crossbar on the counter.
Before the final whistle, another fracas began from Storey’s tackle on Jordan Harley, but despite two bookings for each side it was the Uckers who went through, sealing a visit to Eastbourne United in the Quarter Finals of the competition, with a date to be arranged soon.
In the Sussex Senior Cup Second Round draw that took place after the game, the Uckers were again drawn away to Eastbourne United, with that meeting set to take place on or before Wednesday 6th November.
The Uckers next return to action, however, when they travel to Hassocks for an SCFL Premier Division game next Saturday, kicking off at 3 p.m. at The Beacon.
AFC Uckfield Town: Hawkins, Rodrigues-Barbosa, Cooper, Loft, Maddock, Welch (C), Okojie (Mici, 87’), Storey, Baitup (Pearson, 84’), Cormack, Camara
Unused: James, Creese, Scott