Despite twice taking the lead in a furious first-half at high-flying Eastbourne Town, AFC Uckfield Town could not sustain their early attacking threat and suffered defensive lapses at crucial stages, falling to a 4-2 defeat, reports Will Hugall.
Following their weekend absence from league action, the Uckers made three alterations from the side which enjoyed RUR Cup Quarter-Final victory at Pagham, as Matt Rodrigues-Barbosa, Bailo Camara and Ellis Cormack returned.
Seeking vulnerabilities in a defence which had only leaked four goals in eight previous home matches, Uckfield began boldly, with Callum Smith firing over after a quick one-two. This hint not taken up by the Town defence, in the 9th minute Camara was given room to swing a cross in from the left, and Smith obligingly headed across Jason Tibble for the opening goal.
Town had their own chances, however, and curtailed the Uckers’ lead after only four minutes, as another pinpoint pass – this time by skipper Simon Johnson – provided Dan Perry with a diving header, beating Louis Rogers into the bottom left corner.
A further five minutes on, the Uckers were ahead again, as Richie Welch swept a pass into Ellis Cormack and the midfielder headed down to the edge of the box, where Gianfranco Mici was on hand to thrash into the top left corner.
Refusing to go down, in the 21st minute Town equalised for the second time; a defence-splitting breakaway pass finished with composure by Zac Attwood, after rounding Rogers.
The atmosphere becoming tense as physicality was clamped down on later in the half, Town seized an opportunity to cause set-piece chaos and took the lead after 42 minutes from a Johnson free-kick, as Sam Cole headed in a scrappy rebound.
Both sides benefiting from the break, Town first came close as Welch headed a flick-on over his own bar, and Uckfield responded as Smith fired into Tibble’s trailing leg at a one-on-one. The decisive effort followed for Town after 52 minutes, as Aaron Capon nodded in off the goalframe on the end of Goldsmith’s right-wing cross.
Facing an unforgiving defence serenaded by a tireless home crowd, Uckfield struggled to muster any serious threat in the remaining time. Steve Hickman-Smith heading on target from a Dee Okojie free-kick, while speculative Town efforts from Capon and Dan Bolwell failed, the closing stages became a relative formality – albeit followed by a short-lived bust-up, as frustrations boiled over on both sides.
Hoping to make a return to the form that saw them win six consecutive games before defeat, the Uckers return to The Oaks this Saturday, facing Broadbridge Heath FC with a 3PM kick-off.
AFC Uckfield Town: Rogers, Rodrigues-Barbosa, R. Smith (Ryan Welch, 26’), Hickman-Smith, Cooper, Richie Welch (C), Mici (Okojie, 56’), Patton, C. Smith, Cormack (Maclean, 64’), Camara
Unused: Moore, Norman