After a recent ghastly run of form, AFC showed they are back to their imperious best with back-to-back four-goal wins.
Following their previous week’s 4-2 win over Shoreham, the Uckers followed that up with a 4-1 home win over doomed Chichester City.
Three forced changes in the starting XI from the previous week saw Rich Greenfield back from suspension, replacing the absent Jack Divall. Ben Dartnell came straight back into the side for James Rhodes and Matt Jones slotted in at right back for Grant Harrison.
It was clear from the off that Chichester were content to get all 11 of their young side back behind the ball and try and hit on the counter attack: an interesting method of play much debated this week after the Chelsea win over Barcelona.
As a result of the Chichester tactics, AFC, whilst having the lion’s share of possession, seemed to linger too long on the ball and reduce the tempo. As a result of this game of cat and mouse, the first opportunity was late in coming, with the visitors crossing the ball from a throw on the right hand side and the striker missing a sitter from 12 yards out, miscuing right of the Uckfield stanchion.
On 16 minutes, Dan Pollard cleared a long diagonal ball out from the back for Andy McDowell, who wrong-footed the defender as he switched inside but scuffed a weak shot with his left foot for the Chichester keeper to claim comfortably.
Two minutes later McDowell, who was a constant menace thoroughout with his persistence in harrowing the Chi back line, beat the left back and shot at a tight angle into the side net.
The visitors had their best chance on 21 minutes with a scramble in the goalmouth, only for AFC to clear off the line. The ball immediately went down the other end for McDowell again to attack from the left, this time the ball skimming past the right-hand stick.
The Chichester patient counter attacks were certainly effective in dispatches, with a high ball being misjudged by England schoolboys U18 keeper Tom Betts who was saved by his crossbar. On 40 minutes and Ben Dartnell’s reoccurrence of a metatarsal injury meant he was replaced by Matt Anderson, with Terry Gacias moving into midfield.
Two further chances fell for McDowell in the lead-up to half-time but the score remained goalless.
After some words of encouragement from the Uckfield management at half-time the home side came out with far more purpose. And on 48 minutes the hosts had their reward when Joe Cuttress played a tantalising through ball for Greenfield to pick up and tuck away into the bottom corner.
Two minutes later and Uckers had doubled their lead, when Alex Burton got past the full back to the byeline before sending a looping cross for Greenfield to flick on into the path of McDowell, and the striker made no mistake in whacking the ball home.
On the hour mark a corner resulted in an ambitious bicycle kick from Uckfield full back Jones. The block hit the Chichester player on the shoulder to deny a goal – but the referee pointed to the spot. It was a harsh decision and came as a surprise to everyone. But Greenfield, assuming the penalty duty, confidently placed the shot in the bottom left hand corner for his brace.
On 69 minutes came the fourth goal came for the home side: with a hint of offside, Greenfield crossed the ball for man of the match McDowell whose shot ricocheted off the inside of the upright for a second brace.
Chichester waited until five minutes before the finish to apply pressure on the hosts. With Matt Anderson in the AFC full back position beaten and a fumble from Betts, the Chi No 15 Michael Grant will be having nightmares after sending a sitter wide of the post.
The same player redeemed himself two minutes later when a misplaced clearance by the AFC right back found its way into the path of the onrushing forward, who cooly rounded the keeper for the late consolation goal.
Greg Manton and Dan Pollard at the heart of the home defence didn’t put a foot wrong and Terry Garcias’ introduction into the centre of midfield second half was noteworthy.
After a barren spell in March it has been refreshing to see Uckers get back on the goalscoring trial, with eight goals in two games.
The last game of the season sees Lancing’s visit to The Oaks on Saturday, who will no doubt be looking for a second-placed finish behind Three Bridges.