In a typically scrappy winter’s meeting between two fierce East Sussex rivals, a red-hot Newhaven side exacted their revenge on AFC Uckfield Town for an early-season defeat and climbed to 2nd in the table, but only had Lee Robinson’s 82nd goal to thank in a narrow 1-0 win, reports Will Hugall.
With Anthony Storey making three changes but still being without captain Richie Welch, his Uckers side used the opening stages to adjust to some challenging coastal conditions and to their reworked system, matching the hosts in some tense exchanges.
Shored up defensively by the re-signed Steve Hickman-Smith, the Uckers were able to take the game to a Dockers outfit with 10 wins in their previous 11 league matches and produced some promising first-half chances; Ellis Cormack heading just over from a Bailo Camara cross, while Dee Okojie and Dean Stewart-Hunter also threatened.
Ultimately, with a damp surface and organised defending from both teams, the first 45 minutes failed to produce any killer chances – instead setting a tone for a game that might be decided by tight margins and set-pieces.
Despite the hosts taking a firmer grip at the start of the second half, the scoreline still would not be troubled by the time the hour mark arrived, as Dockers marksman Lee Robinson was stopped by Phil Hawkins on one key occasion, while a home penalty shout also passed.
Substitutions on both sides disrupted the flow from that point, a result that may have been positive from the Uckers’ point of view, as after another headed chance for Cormack was sent just over, the next best opportunity fell to Matt Maclean, who flicked a free-kick from Alex Laing narrowly over.
The feeling that a marginal difference would emerge remained, however, and in the 82nd minute, that came true in agonising circumstances for the Uckers.
From Jake Buss’ goal-kick, the hosts profited as Stewart-Hunter’s headed clearance went backwards; substitute Seb Saunders played Robinson in, and the striker took two decisive touches before firing past Hawkins to finally set the match alight.
Despite the introduction of Liam Baitup, the Uckers were powerless to inject another such moment of quality in the dying minutes and succumbed to defeat – a deeply frustrating one, given the manner of the match itself, and the fact that it is now five consecutive seasons where they have been unable to avoid at least one defeat against the Dockers.
Storey’s side will hope to recover strongly, and return to action this Tuesday – providing conditions remain playable – against Little Common FC; travelling to The Oval after the original meeting between the sides was postponed just before Christmas.
Kick-off will be 7:45 p.m. in Eastbourne, while a full preview will be available here on Uckfield FM in the build-up to the match.
AFC Uckfield Town: Hawkins, Cooper (Rodrigues-Barbosa, 69’), Norman, Stewart-Hunter (Baitup, 89’), Hickman-Smith, Hull, Okojie (Black, 59’), Maclean (C), Laing, Cormack, Camara
Unused: Samways, Storey