In a RUR Cup Semi-Final unfortunately overshadowed by a serious injury and contentious decision-making, Peacehaven & Telscombe managed to edge past AFC Uckfield Town thanks to Tyler Capon’s ninth-minute strike, booking their spot in the Final as the Uckers conversely finished the evening with three red cards, reports Will Hugall.
Only two days on from a hard-fought 1-1 draw at Eastbourne Town, Uckfield were forced into several changes for the tie, as Callum Smith, Matt Maclean, Ellis Cormack and Matt Rodrigues-Barbosa were all unavailable for the quick turnover in games.
Playing a slightly more defensive line-up as the returning Danny Andrews sat deep in midfield, the Uckers initially played into the hosts’ hands, with a Tye attack who had only blanked twice all season thriving on the space available as Callum Hart and Jake Legrange both had early chances.
Those warning signs did not provoke an immediate Uckfield response, however, and in the ninth minute, Peacehaven were able to take the lead, as a nervy defensive line sat off Matthew Cheeseman, allowing the midfielder to float a fine pass across the box and find Capon, who struck into the vast amount of space beyond Phil Hawkins.
Sensing vulnerability, the hosts continued to exert pressure and could have doubled their lead with three chances in the next few minutes, as Hart was ruled offside when poking past Hawkins before Capon missed the chance for a near-post header and also drove a dangerous effort across the face of goal.
Finally clicking into gear, the Uckers began to turn the game around at the half-hour mark, and with the next significant chance Bailo Camara found Baitup in space on the counter, but the striker’s resulting shot was frustratingly straight at Lawrence Sanded.
Both defences then stood up to tests before half-time, with Charlie Lambert clearing a Dee Okojie cross and Sanded drawn into a superb tip onto the crossbar by Sam Cooper from the resulting corner, while Craig Norman importantly held off Hart from a far-post delivery by Lambert to keep the score at 1-0.
With the hosts in control of possession, the second half began in contrasting terms to the first, struggling to initially get going as Legrange had the only real effort at goal comfortably saved down low by Hawkins.
This relatively quiet period – which removed the Uckers’ chance of a quick response – continued until the hour mark, when a series of incidents steadily disrupted any flow, and eventually confirmed the hosts’ victory.
Firstly, a mistimed tackle from Dean Stewart-Hunter and the strong reaction of Hart, in particular, saw each pick up a booking, followed soon by an unfortunate connection by Camara with Lambert as both went for a header.
An extended delay for the injury Lambert picked up as he fell – later revealed to be a broken collarbone – and a booking for Camara was the result, while momentum was hard for either to recover afterwards as well.
While ten minutes would be added on, as the game approached the 90th minute the hosts still had considerable control of the tie; Cooper having to turn an inswinging corner over the bar, while Cheeseman sent a long-range effort whistling just over after a run from Manny Okorougo.
From that point, however, the match descended into a scrappy affair, and with neither side shying away at such a crucial stage, referee Anthony O’Brien stepped into the limelight.
With Camara shown a second yellow for late contact as Sanded cleared, O’Brien followed up minutes later when called over by his assistant to also send Andrews off after returning to the pitch from a head injury.
No more chances remained in the match, and Tye secured their Final spot for the second consecutive season, but contention inevitably remained with the officiating; Norman was also handed a second booking after the full-time whistle, as all patience seemed lost.
The Uckers will aim to return to action tomorrow, although a pitch inspection will be held before their home league fixture against Steyning Town, with a kick-off time of 3 p.m. set providing conditions can improve.
AFC Uckfield Town: Hawkins, Cooper, Norman, Stewart-Hunter, Hickman-Smith, Samways (Scott, 75’), Okojie, Andrews, Baitup, Hull, Camara
Unused: Cormack, Temba, Storey, Ovenden
Images (c) Mike Skinner