A THOROUGHLY miserable Easter weekend for the players, officials and supporters of AFC Uckfield was completed on Bank Holiday Monday in this home 2-0 defeat to struggling Ringmer.
It followed the Uckers’ unfortunate John O’Hara League Cup Final defeat to Three Bridges on Good Friday morning.
AFC’s lack of form continued in this, a game that had more meaning and significance for the visitors than it did the hosts, and this showed in the performances of both sides.
Ben Courtnage returned to the wide berth after being cup tied for the final. Ringmer’s first opportunity came on three minutes when a purposeful drive forward beat the right back and saw the ball fizzed across the face of the goal beyond the far stanchion.
A further early effort for the visitors came on six minutes when a centre half’s headed clearance dropped to the unattended player positioned in the pocket between the midfield and back four. The player struck the ball from 18 yards only to see the ball sail over the bar.
On 18 minutes the visitors got their just rewards for the early application. Some fluent approach play saw a series of passes pull the Uckfield backline out of shape and eventually the ball came to the unmarked Tom Lyons – playing as the lone striker, to the left of goal – and he swept the ball home.
It took 24 minutes for AFC’s first real chance – and it was probably their best chance of the game, when Dan Pollard’s long clearance from the back saw the high ball sail over the head of the stranded centre half for Jack Divall to latch onto in behind. With the keeper off his line, the lobbed effort dipped, skimming inches over the bar.
AFC started the second period by immediately working the ball down the right, with Coutnage sending a radio-controlled ball across the six-yard box, but with no runners arriving to convert.
Uckfield’s first substitution was an enforced one, on 49 minutes, with the injured Greg Manton being replaced at centre half by Grant Harrison.
A further effort for the home side came on 54 minutes, with the ball played forward to Andy McDowell, who laid off a precision pass to find Courtnage in space on the flank. He delivered another enticing low, hard cross across the Ringmer box, which caused mayhem in the backline.
A second enforced substitution compounded Uckfield’s misery on 62 minutes, with the influential Rhodes being replaced by Matt Anderson, and Joe Cuttress moving forward from right back to central midfield.
With 20 minutes to go came the talking point of the game. A Pollard slideing tackle on a wet surface, just outside the Uckfield 18-yard box with cover in behind, resulted in the over-officious match referee to reach immediately for his pocket sprint enthusiastically over 20 yards to give him his marching orders.
He had not covered himself in glory up to this point but even the neutrals and opposition found the decision of a straight red ludicrous.
A foul? Yes. A yellow card? Yes. A clear goal scoring opportunity? Definitely not, from outside the box with cover in behind.
AFC, still vexed from this decision, then found themselves in deeper troublel, when a ball pushed out to the right found the goalscorer unmarked, and despite a healthy hint of offside, he was allowed to slot home for his brace.
On 85 minutes Cuttress was replaced by Tom Swancott, but nothing was to alter the final pitcome and Ringmer ended 2-0 winners. It was a poor display by the home team, with the visitors producing by far the better football on the day.
As is normal when a young ref is being assessed in this day and age, too many stoppages meant the game was not allowed to flow – due to a pressure to apply rules rather than any common sense. Nevertheless, Uckfield deserved nothing from the game and failed to assert themselves at any stage.