Graeme Mintrim and Steve Ives take charge of their first match at The Oaks as joint managers this Saturday, and with a new Uckers squad set to be on show against visitors Ramsgate FC, fans will have many reasons to be excited for their return to the stands, writes Will Hugall.
More than seven months since the last first team fixture to take place there in any form, it’s fair to say AFC Uckfield Town’s resumption to action at The Oaks has been a long time coming. After hosting a 1-0 league victory over Langney Wanderers on January 11, everything seems to have been thrown at the Uckers’ home of 32 years; torrential rain, howling winds, unfortunate scheduling and the small matter of a global pandemic.
As the English summer draws to a close, however, and fixture lists have been published for a 2020-21 season that will be unlike any other, finally The Oaks has some football to show – a new-look Uckers side welcoming the Bostik League South East Division’s Ramsgate in a final exciting test prior to the resumption of competitive action.
The Uckers come into this game off the back of friendly ties with Jarvis Brook, Haywards Heath Town, Corinthian FC and Sutton Common Rovers, and determined to prepare thoroughly, were able to secure the visit of Matt Longhurst’s Rams side, who sit a level higher in the pyramid.
Having sat 18th in the Bostik South East Division when results were expunged last season, the Thanet side – who are entering their 16th consecutive season in the Isthmian League system – will be looking to respond with an improved performance this term. Their friendly schedule has seen them already claim victories against Folkestone Invicta, K Sports and Lordswood, while narrow defeats against local rivals Margate and Sheppey United in the last week have seen the welcome return of the club’s fans to terraces.
The Rams may be travelling in the opposite direction along the A28/A299 (other routes are available) to most tourists on a Bank Holiday weekend where the weather may just hold off, but with an impressive pedigree at their level and a good record against Sussex sides, have good reason to make the trip. In 36 matches in either the FA Cup, Trophy or Vase in their history against Sussex clubs, for example, they have won 20, drawn 14 and lost 12, while regular league meetings with the likes of Three Bridges, East Grinstead Town, Haywards Heath and Horsham in recent seasons have produced crucial results in the Rams’ consistent push for mid-table.
Still early in their time as a management team, Ives and Mintrim, along with their squad, have already shown no fears of facing off against impressive opposition and are likely to again relish the test this weekend, with positive momentum the prize being sought ahead of the big test of an FA Cup Extra Preliminary Round tie back at The Oaks against Little Common on the near horizon this Tuesday.
Kick-off is 3pm at The Oaks (Framfield, TN22 5QL) tomorrow, with a maximum capacity of 150 attendees allowed at the match under current guidelines.
Come on you Uckers!