On their long-awaited return to action at home, AFC Uckfield Town made up for an eleven-week absence in the most dramatic fashion possible as they scored an 87th-minute winner to defeat a young Langney Wanderers side, securing their first three points of 2020 to move up to 8th, reports Will Hugall.
With both line-ups, and indeed the conditions, having changed since the sides last met in late August – when the Uckers ran out to a 6-1 win – an unfamiliar feeling surrounded the game, but in an enthralling match, that fact rarely seemed to affect either side.
Early on, it was the visitors who played with slightly more cutting edge, and just after the 15-minute mark they were able to use their pace on the counter to force the Uckers’ Phil Hawkins into action; parrying a fine headed effort.
Refusing to make things easy for Simon Colbran’s side, however, the Uckers began to make their own impact soon after, as recent signing Alex Laing delivered a set-piece that narrowly evaded Matt Maclean, while Liam Baitup was also unfortunate not to latch onto a raking pass from defender Tayler Maddock.
While there were few gilt-edged chances in the first half’s remaining minutes, it was clear that both sides were boosted in confidence after losing two and six consecutive matches respectively, and after entering the game level on points, were particularly keen to rise above one another.
Indeed, just after the teams returned from half-time, the game could have tipped decisively in Wanderers’ favour thanks to the opening effort, but after Hawkins was beaten, Matt Rodrigues-Barbosa cleared off the line to preserve the deadlock.
Progress was harder to maintain as the game reached the hour mark, with tough conditions and a high intensity each taking their toll, while substitutions from both managers tended to disrupt the game’s momentum as the focus of each attack altered.
A quiet spell followed, and neither team – having both been relatively short of goals recently – appeared to be able to make the decisive impact as the minutes ticked away.
With the match heading towards its final ten minutes, however, a quick burst of chances arrived at both ends, with high drama as a ball into the Uckers’ box which was just cleared under significant Langney pressure before Uckfield pushed forward themselves.
The tension only increased into the closing stages, and as so often in their season so far, the Uckers would be tested for nerve and determination in a decisive final period.
When their chance did finally arrive, it was substitute Ellis Cormack who took up possession outside the box, before seconds later scoring the stunning effort that would ultimately separate the sides; not even allowing the away defence to react, striking with such ferocity that Dan Hutchins was well beaten for a decisive 87th minute deadlock-breaker.
While the task of seeing out the final few minutes remained, it was one that the Uckers defence was equal to, and so they sealed all three points to leap back up to 8th in the SCFL Premier Division table.
The Uckers will look to press on again in league action this Tuesday evening, as they welcome 7th-placed Crawley Down Gatwick for a tie that has previously been both abandoned and postponed – they will hope that third time is the charm as they kick-off at 7:30 p.m. at The Oaks.
AFC Uckfield Town: Hawkins, Rodrigues-Barbosa, Norman (McGuigan, 79’), Cooper, Maddock, Welch (C), Stewart-Hunter, Maclean, Laing, Baitup (Cormack, 55’), Camara
Unused: Hull, Pearson, Samways