On a first weekend of league action where results are always hard to predict, AFC Uckfield Town avoided any slip-ups with a thoroughly impressive performance from their new-look squad, getting off to an ideal start against tricky visitors Steyning Town, reports Will Hugall.
With the Uckers coming into the match fresh from a 1-0 FA Cup defeat to Little Common, co-managers Steve Ives and Graeme Mintrim decided on two changes to their starting line-up; Sam Carrington and Morgan Vale earning places in an XI that appeared to be set up to attack the Barrowmen.
Such intent was clearly matched by Gerry Murphy’s visitors, and in an open start to the match, both management teams would soon find their best-laid plans working to varying effects in the space of two chances.
First, Steyning’s Louis Coulson received possession at the heart of the Uckers backline but struck low into the gloves of Jason Tibble, and only minutes later, Uckfield would sweep into the lead in impressive fashion.
After a spell under pressure, possession broke in midfield for Carrington to collect and fire a smart pass into the right half-space, 20 yards out, where Vale used ample time to invite goalkeeper Sam Marsden out before stroking into the bottom left corner; a clinical opener and the ideal start after seven minutes.
Although the goal released the shackles, the loss of centre-back Dan Tear to injury five minutes later threatened to weaken the Uckers, and Coulson had an even better chance to open his tally when holding off three defenders in the box, only to fire over the bar.
That chance was the exception rather than the rule, however, and Uckfield controlled as Lloyd Francis had a half-volley well saved by Marsden before, in the 28th minute, Carrington again picked up possession in midfield and stylishly beat Joe Fitzpatrick before laying off to Perry, who emphatically drilled home a second goal into the bottom left corner.
With the Uckers in no mood to waste chances, it could well have been three only minutes later when Perry turned provider for Vale with a fine cross from the left, but Marsden produced a save to palm a flicked header around his post.
The first half ended without much further note, but with the emphasis strongly on the visitors to produce a response, the start of the second was markedly better for them, including a bemusing first chance for Harry Heath that appeared to see fouls on both sides in the Uckers box but resulted in a corner.
That passage of play appeared to give the Barrowmen heart, and when a beautiful cross from the left was fired in next to Coulson, the striker looked fully set to score, only for his downwards header to be tipped around the post by Tibble, treating The Oaks crowd to another stunning save in his growing catalogue.
Despite their best efforts, it was there that the clear chances for Steyning dried up, and as Uckfield kept things tight the tide began to shift their way once again, ultimately in a decisive manner.
From their next corner, the Uckers exerted patient pressure and got their reward as Jack Samways, jinking on the by-line, was eventually upended to earn a penalty decision; Perry stepped up and fired confidently in off the left post, bagging his second of the game in the 72nd minute.
With the result already sealed, flurries at both ends followed as Josh McGrath blazed over for Steyning, while Vale, Matt Black and Perry would all be foiled at the end of promising counters. The final moment of key action saw Coulson sent off for leading in high to a challenge with Tibble, but the goalkeeper was thankfully uninjured and the Uckers saw out the remaining minutes.
Looking to build on a very promising start, the Uckers will look to develop their league position further as they continue SCFL action this Tuesday at The Oval, facing Little Common for the second time in just a week with a 7:45pm kick-off on the Eastbourne coast.
AFC Uckfield Town: Tibble, Cash, Zabadne, Francis (Ridley, 77’), Hover, Tear (Duncan, 12’), Vale (Turner, 84’), Samways, Perry (C), Carrington, Black
Unused: Kirk-Patrick, Page
Steyning Town: Marsden, Spano, Clark, Boiling, Fitzpatrick, Gathern (C), Cousins (Hards, 50’), Bold, Coulson, Romain (McGrath, 68’), Heath
Unused: S. Tilley, Young, Theobald
The Steyning keeper is early action
Morgan Vale score first goal
Morgan Vale on the ball again
And it is in from Dan Perry 2-0
Good save from Steyning keeper
A high ball
Action – Wheres that ball going
Matt Black on the run
Good strong football …….
And a tread on the foot for Matt – Penalty??? not
Penalty kick – Dan Perry second goal – 3-0
Matt Black on the attack again
A little push my friend!
Chairman Tom Parker presenting Man of the Match Mohammad Zabande
All images (C) Mike Skinner