After the disappointment of two defeats in the previous week, AFC Uckfield Town made a superb comeback back on home territory to beat visitors Lancing 4-2, with a late first-half opener followed up by an incisive second-half performance, reports Will Hugall.
Having exited the RUR Cup in midweek, the Uckers refreshed their side with four changes, as goalkeeper Josh Langley-Fineing started only his second match of the season, Regan Smith and Gianfranco Mici returned on the left, and forward Jay Tomlin made his full debut.
On a four-match unbeaten run – the longest of their season – visitors Lancing began in confident style, as top goalscorer Matt Daniel drew the first save, a paw away from Langley-Fineing, and pressure continued from a series of corners.
The Lancers defended astutely while settling into a counter-attacking stance, restricting Uckfield mostly to long-range efforts as the half progressed.
A tactical change from Anthony Storey, seeing Tomlin and Matt Maclean share striking duties, changed the direction of Uckfield attacks after half an hour, and several chances soon arrived.
Brett Patton drew an awkward save from Ben Purkis firing high from the left, Richie Welch forced Purkis to spill an effort to his left where Tomlin went down under pressure, and Tomlin himself was stopped on the line after a close-range prod at goal as an Uckers opener came ever closer.
In the 42nd minute, the goal did arrive, but on the counter, as Tomlin struck a perfectly weighted cross-field pass from the left to find Dee Okojie (pictured) , who bore down on goal before confidently tucking into the bottom left corner from 10 yards.
Further leaving his mark in an emphatic performance, Tomlin dragged the Uckers forward after the restart with a moment of individual inspiration, teeing himself up on the volley from 20 yards to force an athletic tip wide from Purkis. From the resulting corner, a second goal arrived in the 52nd minute, as Smith found Hickman-Smith and the centre-back crashed in a header.
After Patton lifted a cross just over Okojie at the right post, and Okojie found Mici to side-foot over the bar, the Uckers momentarily eased off, but in the 65th minute struck a crucial third from an eye-catching team move. As Tomlin laid off to Richie Welch, a ball to Smith was retrieved at the by-line to spark pinball in the box, as Mici, Smith and Okojie were each denied, but Okojie settled the impasse on his second attempt, coolly placing into the bottom right.
Not yet finished, in the 74th minute the Uckers had their fourth as Okojie drove forward against an outnumbered Lancing defence, and had a shot blocked, only for Maclean to convert the rebound.
Although Lancing had taken a back seat in the half, just two minutes later Josh Clayman whipped in a free-kick from the right of the Uckers half, with the ball sailing to the far post and being prodded home by Liam Hendy.
In the 81st minute, the scare of a Lancers comeback became a little more realistic as Michael Death, who struggled for involvement earlier on, scored a stunning effort, thrashed into the top right corner from over 20 yards. The visitors could not muster much greater pressure, however, and the Uckers saw out an ultimately comfortable victory to start a run of their final ten league games in fine style.
This Tuesday, that run continues as the Uckers welcome Newhaven FC to The Oaks in a rearranged match, kicking off at 7:45PM.
AFC Uckfield Town: Langley-Fineing, Rodrigues-Barbosa (Norman, 60’), Smith, Hickman-Smith, Ryan Welch, Richie Welch (C), Okojie, Patton, Maclean, Mici, Tomlin (Samways, 70’)
Unused: Creese, Storey, Hales
Dee Okojie 42 64 Steve Hickman-Smith 49 Matt Maclean 75