Oaks returns to capacity but Uckfield edged out in FA Cup opener

AFC Uckfield Town vs. Little Common FC – 1st September 2020 – FA Cup Extra Preliminary Round

As competitive football returned to The Oaks for the first time in eight months, AFC Uckfield Town were unable to find a way past a resolute and well-drilled Little Common side as a single goal for the visitors decided a very even tie in the FA Cup Extra Preliminary Round, reports Will Hugall.

For their official debut as Uckers co-managers, Graeme Mintrim and Steve Ives named a side featuring a balance of experience and youth, with Callum Ridley and Luca Page added to the side that started in a 1-1 friendly draw with Ramsgate the previous Saturday.

In front of a capacity crowd fully befitting the occasion, it was Uckers who had the better of the opening stages as a Ridley cross just escaped Dan Perry’s outstretched boot and a Jack Samways corner also found Perry to drag a first-time finish to Common defender Ollie Weeks on the far post.

Common, a more settled squad in comparison at the start of Russell Eldridge’s tenth season as manager, responded with a testing spell of pressure as the half continued, with Lewis Parsons heading a Kian Moynes corner narrowly wide, Sam Ellis threatening on the left and Paul Feakins going close from distance.

As the game opened up before half-time, a defensive lapse allowed Perry to set Matt Black through for a momentary glimpse of goal, only to be crowded out when getting his shot away. A similar opening saw Lewis Hole also take aim at the other end, but with Jason Tibble out of his goal, Mo Zabadne recovered to head the hooked effort clear and ensure the sides went into the break level.

After a delayed start due to floodlight failure, the second half began with the visitors in the ascendancy, quickly demonstrating the type of intent that would be required to break the deadlock. With Tibble first drawn into a double save to stop Ellis and Hole, even better effort from the ‘keeper followed; improbably turning a Hole effort round his post from point-blank range after Nick Richardson had squared for his captain.

Those heroics could not realistically continue, and in the 53rd minute the excellent Moynes – a Hastings United academy product – whipped in another corner to find defender Ryan Alexander for a bullet header past Tibble, emphatically breaking the game’s deadlock.

When Moynes almost made it two by forcing Tibble into a spectacular tip over the bar, the shaken Uckers rang the changes and got an encouraging response, as the physicality of Sam Carrington teed up Lloyd Francis to be felled in the box before two crosses to Perry were narrowly flicked off-target.

Where more of the same energy was needed, the Uckers veered a little too close to looseness in possession and momentum stalled, with several attacks being too easy for the Common backline to clear with their physical advantage across the pitch.

Experienced Common defending deserved huge credit, however, and with time elapsing as Uckfield were frustrated, the most notable chances in the final 20 minutes saw a Sam Cash header from a corner saved in the goalmouth by Matt Cruttwell, while Dan Tear forced a backwards header into Cruttwell’s gloves.

Added time could not save the Uckers, and despite a very encouraging performance, it was by the narrowest of margins that they would be denied any more time in the FA Cup this season, with the loss of such a prize the only real frustrating element of the night.

Sure to return stronger from the experience, the Uckers take to The Oaks this Saturday for the start of the SCFL Premier Division as they host Steyning Town in another hotly-anticipated occasion. Kick-off is 3pm, with 300 spectators again allowed under current guidelines.

AFC Uckfield Town: Tibble, Cash, Zabadne, Ridley (Plummer, 57’), Hover, Tear, Francis, Samways (Vale, 78’), Perry (C), Black, Page (Carrington, 57’)
Unused: Duncan, Lee, Kirk-Patrick, Platt

Little Common FC: Cruttwell, Clarke, Weeks (Miriam-Batchelor, 60’), Ward, Alexander (Eldridge, 78’), Parsons, Moynes, Feakins, Hole (C), Richardson, Ellis (Warren, 78’)
Unused: Smith

Images above Andy Pelling

Uckfield man of the match, as chosen by match sponsor Adam Palmer was Lloyd Francis.

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