AFTER a long season of 47 games, a cup final and an eighth place finish in the club’s first term at this level, AFC went into the final match against a Lancing team determined to finish in second place.
There were few changes to the side that beat relegated Chichester 4-1 the previous week, with the exception being Jamie Wright joining the bench from the reserves.
The Lancers started off at a whirlwind pace clearly intent on securing all three points for that all-important runners-up medal.
The first quarter of an hour was all in favour of the visitors with little reply from the hosts as the back four got pulled out of shape time after time by the movement of the league’s top goal scorer Charlie Walker.
Thirteen minutes in and some indecision to come and claim by the Uckfield keeper Tom Betts resulted in a soft opening goal for Walker.
A further goal was rightly disallowed for offside three minutes later. Young Betts then redeemed himself for his earlier mistake with a succession of great saves around the 20 minutes mark.
A dubious free kick on 32 minutes just outside the D for Lancing was struck inches wide of the left upright, past the wall.
First shot for Uckers came on 36 minutes with Chris Neal cutting inside from the left to force a save from the keeper.
Two minutes layer and a misjudged bounce again caused confusion between goal keeper and back line to gift Lancing’s second goal of the afternoon, again scored by Walker.
A brighter start was made to the second half by AFC, after putting in a lack-lustre performance in the first period.
For 20 minutes of the second half the teams looked evenly matched, with the home side regaining their shape and showing some purpose. Alas, the arrival of Lancing’s third goal on 65 minutes, from Titus Paterson. prompted a total capitulation by the home team, resulting in three further goals to gift the Lancers their rightful award as the league’s runners-up.
Paterson scored in the 89th and 90th minutes to claim the match ball while Lee Garnham go the sixth and final goal two minutes into added time.
After two good results against relegated sides, this represented a disappointing finish against a rampant Lancing side on a thoroughly damp and miserable afternoon for AFC.
But in the first season in Division One an eighth-placed finish is a credible result given widespread speculation about an AFC relegation by many at the start of the season. A well-deserved break for all at the club will no doubt see AFC look to build on their encouraging start in this division next season.