Improving considerably in all departments, AFC Uckfield Town found form in ideal fashion to overhaul hosts Little Common and win their rearranged league meet 3-0, with the Uckers’ recent goal shortage being emphatically ended by some surprising, but equally pleasing, sources, reports Will Hugall.
Despite being just the third league meeting between the two teams since 2015, a sense of familiarity always existed at a venue the Uckers have already visited three times this season, and in recapturing their best, that return certainly appeared to help them.
Making a sole, but significant, change with the return of captain Richie Welch from suspension, the Uckers were able to start strongly at The Oval, with a superb early chance coming through Ellis Cormack as the midfielder’s turn in the final third set up space to shoot; finding the post and the gloves of Matt Cruttwell.
After a slightly quieter spell, Anthony Storey’s side were able to apply further pressure and again test a home defence with the best per-game record in the SCFL Premier Division’s bottom half – but when their opening goal came after 22 minutes, they could hardly have expected the manner of the strike.
In the 22nd minute, that effort came from an unfortunate home defender, as after Sam Cooper’s cross into the box had caused panic the ball was sliced comically over Cruttwell, completing a series of events that could barely be repeated by either team if they tried.
As the hosts found it difficult to respond with any urgency, the Uckers were able to hold off, beyond the half-hour mark, a Common side playing just its fourth game of 2020 and consolidate their lead as desired.
In their own efforts to strengthen, a burst towards the end of the half would prove decisive for the Uckers, with the only unexpected factor being the eventual 45th-minute goalscorer; after Laing earlier tried his luck by firing over the crossbar, it was instead the unlikely figure of Craig Norman who turned finisher from a Bailo Camara set-up, dispatching coolly from close range.
Intent to press home their advantage, Uckfield began the second half confidently, and just minutes in could have put the hosts into an even more daunting position. Ever-threatening, Bailo Camara put in a teasing delivery, only for Matt Maclean and Cormack to both be crowded out by the home defence in their respective searches for goals.
Top goalscorer Liam Baitup would then get his chance from the bench, almost making an immediate impact just before the hour mark when he gained possession and let fly with a chip on Cruttwell, but denied by the small matter of the crossbar.
Now firing on all cylinders, the Uckers capped off a fine spell by running in their third in the 61st minute, with Bailo Camara again making the decisive assisting move by driving inside and finding Laing, who tapped in from close range against an exposed Cruttwell.
Able to then defend their lead, Storey’s team managed fitness and the clock in a composed manner in the subsequent period, introducing substitutes who were able to add further creativity while also contributing to a resilient team effort in protecting the scoreline.
Ultimately, as the hosts – who had only previously lost two games by a three-goal margin all season – struggled to make their usually sound attacking presence felt, the Uckers’ task was potentially easier than expected, but nonetheless hard-earned, and highly impressive in adding a third clean sheet in the last five games upon full-time.
Both at the back and in front of goal, the Uckers will be hoping to raise their level even further this weekend, and will certainly expect the need to, as they welcome league leaders Lancing to The Oaks.
In a match that is sure to be keenly contested, given Uckfield inflicted the first of just three league defeats for the Lancers so far this season back in September, kick-off is 3 p.m. – for all the key facts and stats, a full preview will be available here before matchday.
AFC Uckfield Town: Hawkins, Norman, Cooper, Hickman-Smith, Hull, Richie Welch (C) (Okojie, 74’), Laing, Maclean, Stewart-Hunter (Samways, 68’), Cormack (Baitup, 55’), Camara
Unused: Rodrigues-Barbosa, Ryan Welch
The current League Table with AFC Uckfield Town in 8th place with games in hand over leaders Lancing.