In the fifth and final meeting that the sides will have this season, AFC Uckfield Town and Eastbourne United AFC face off in familiar pastures and fashion tonight, but, at the Quarter-Final stage of the SCFL’s Peter Bentley Cup, will have the stakes changed yet again as both aim to write new history in the competition, writes Will Hugall.
With the previous four matches between the sides this season – two in the league, and one in each the RUR Cup and Sussex Senior Cup – producing two wins for each, momentum will be difficult to gauge going into this tie as plenty is on the line.
As United have tended to produce their best form at The Oval this season, winning 12 of 18 home matches, and Anthony Storey’s Uckfield have been stronger on the road with 13 wins from 23 – including the scalps of three of the SCFL’s current top four – the conditions also seem set for another classic tie.
Previously, the Uckers have inflicted two of just three defeats in the last 15 home games for Matt Crabb’s United, and in both kept clean sheets – an occurrence that has otherwise only faced the hosts four times this season.
However, when the circumstances have seemed to favour Uckfield, it has actually been United to prevail this season. After winning 2-1 in their August meeting at The Oaks when Nathan Crabb was red-carded, they also secured three points earlier this month, when the Uckers were severely frustrated in a 3-1 defeat following Jordan Hawkins’ early dismissal.
With recent form hard to read, then, it may be more appropriate to look to either side’s history in the Peter Bentley Cup for possible signs of nerve in cup competitions.
United are the only one of the two to previously win the competition – although when their single victory did occur, it was in what was then known as the Baldwin Cup, almost a full seven decades ago in the 1950-51 season.
After another Final appearance the following season, United have never returned to the showpiece of the long-running competition, and after their only Quarter-Final appearance in the last five seasons ended in defeat to Haywards Heath in 2016-17, will be hoping to go further here.
The Uckers, meanwhile, have defied their comparatively short history to leave a certain impression on the cup in recent seasons, albeit without yet lifting the trophy itself.
Memorably, last season they made it all the way to the Final – basked in bright May sunshine at The Beacon – and fought bravely with ten men for the majority of the match before going down 3-1 to Saltdean United.
Also making the Final as AFC Uckfield in 2011-12, when they lost to Three Bridges, Uckfield were one of five teams to make multiple finals in the last decade, but the only to lose both – a record they will be keen to amend in the 2020s.
As both teams look to make history during positive seasons so far – with United sat 7th in the SCFL Premier Division and the Uckers just four points behind in 8th – their emerging rivalry will take another turn tonight, and with the chance of cup glory very much on the line, only one can prevail.
The Peter Bentley Cup Quarter-Final tie between Eastbourne United Association FC and AFC Uckfield Town kicks off at 7:45 p.m. tonight at The Oval (Eastbourne, BN22 7LN), with directions to the ground available here; http://www.scfl.org.uk/grounddetail.php?gnd_id=16.
Admission is £6 for Adults, £3 for Concessions and free for Under-16s.
Updates will be available throughout the match from the @AfcUckfieldTown Twitter page, while a full report from the match will also be available here in the hours after the match.
Come on you Uckers!