After both sides were faced with the toughest points in their respective seasons in the opening month of 2020, AFC Uckfield Town and SCFL Premier Division leaders Lancing FC meet this Saturday each looking to double down on recent recoveries, and in what is sure to be a hotly-contested meeting, motivation will be very real for both, writes Will Hugall.
Relative to some glittering form from the Lancers this season, and a consistent set of results – particularly in cup competitions – for the Uckers, January delivered a blow to the ambitions of bosses Naim Rouane and Anthony Storey; the Sussex winter seeing two of just three league defeats all seasons for the 1st-place team, and three separate losses for the side in 8th.
For tomorrow’s visitors, in particular, the circumstances of that spell might have suggested a significant wobble in their push for promotion.
On the road, consecutive defeats to close challengers Newhaven and Horley meant that critical points were dropped, with the two sides now 2nd and 3rd respectively. Following home wins since against East Preston and Lingfield, however, their lead at the top of the table still stands at seven points; albeit having played more matches than any side down to 9th.
Memorably, the only other side to inflict league defeat this season on the Lancers was Storey’s Uckfield, winning 1-0 thanks to Matt Maclean’s early goal and some superb rearguard action at Culver Road in late September.
Since then, the story of the Uckers’ league season has fluctuated; sometimes playing second fiddle to runs in the FA Vase and Sussex Senior Cup, and often affected by unfortunately-timed weather conditions the last few months have provided, while being part of a ten-match unbeaten run before most recently throwing up some inconsistent results.
This calendar year, three wins have included a significant 1-0 victory at Horley, but four defeats have equally involved a 3-1 loss at ten-man Eastbourne United and ill-disciplined 3-1 besting by Horsham YMCA.
As a result, the Uckers will be hoping a more settled 3-0 midweek win at Little Common proves to signal an upturn in fortunes this month – with a crucial run of upcoming home matches including the visit of Peacehaven & Telscombe for a RUR Cup Quarter-Final tie this Tuesday.
For now, though, the Uckers will concentrate fully on the task of masterminding a way to disrupt the Lancers – a task that they have historically enjoyed, whoever the in-form opponent, or indeed whether it is the West Sussex side they are facing.
In the previous five meetings between the two, Storey has led Uckfield to victory every time; only ever conceding a goal, in fact, at home during that spell. Fortunes were less favourable for the Uckers before the 2017-18 season, however; in eight matches as AFC Uckfield and under their current name from 2012 to 2017, they lost six times and won only once.
While they boast good form against the Lancers, and in picking up victories against four of this season’s top five, the Uckers will, however, be extremely wary of the ability their visitors possess. In striker Lewis Finney – who has already netted 44 goals from 37 matches – for example, the leaders have a runaway contender for SCFL top goalscorer this season; while the likes of Brad Santos, James Beresford and Max Blencowe have all proven extremely useful additions amongst a number of young players dual-signed with Lewes FC.
Looking to use their own pedigree and experience to their advantage, the Uckers will no doubt relish the challenge of facing the league leaders as they aim to eliminate a deficit of two points to 6th-place Eastbourne United, and perhaps even more importantly try to claim what would be an astounding double against the rampant Lancers this season.
AFC Uckfield Town vs Lancing FC kicks off at 3 p.m. this Saturday at The Oaks (Framfield, TN22 5QL), with directions to the ground available here; http://www.scfl.org.uk/grounddetail.php?gnd_id=2.
Entry is £6 for Adults, £3 for Concessions, and free for Under-16s.
Updates on any potential pitch inspections, as well as line-ups, goals and all the important action, will be available from both clubs’ Twitter pages, @AfcUckfieldTown and @LancingFC, on matchday, while a full report will appear here on Uckfield FM in the hours after the match.
Come on you Uckers!