AFC Uckfield manager Rowland hails his record-breaking, history-making squad

AFC Uckfield manager Simon Rowland hailed his record-breaking squad for achieving their main objective of promotion to county league division one.

The Oaks have pulled up trees this season, not least by making it to two cup finals when the club, formerly known as Wealden FC, had never in its 11-year history even appeared in one final before this season.

But the main aim set out by former Hastings United and Eastbourne Borough player Rowland had awlays been to break into the top flight of Sussex football – again something the club has never before achieved.

And after a sterling campaign Rowland’s men finally sealed a promotion place with a win over Rustington away on Saturday. Rowland heaped praise on his troops for that achievement before calling on them to add to their silverware haul with victory in tonight’s (Friday) Division Two Challenge Cup Final against (at Culver Lane, Lancing FC, kick off 7.45pm). Their other cup final appearance ended in an honourable 2-0 loss against the soon to be crowned champions of the Sussex County League, Crawley Down, on April 6 in the RUR Charity Cup.

After the Rustington game, a jubilant AFC Rowland said: “What a superb season; the lads have been terrific. I knew at the start of the season that (assistant managers) Dave (Cole), Kevin (Laundon) and I had put together a good side, but they have really excelled with an RUR final, promotion and another final this Friday in the Division Two Cup, so a massive well done to them.

“Today was made easier with Rustington missing key players and pretty much giving us a two goal-lead (see page 59 for match report) but the midfield – like they have been all season – were brilliant.

“Just hope we can get a few players off the treatment table for the final on Friday and get ourselves a winners’ medal.”

AFC warmed up for that final in style with a 2-0 win over Rustington in the league on Tuesday night. In doing so moved above Worthing United into second place. Several first team players were absent but Matt Jones and Paul Henty, who themselves had missed serval matches this season were outstanding in the centre of the home side’s defence.

Jack Divall scored a cracker on 25 minutes to put AFC ahead and ten minutes later Andy McDowell raced through the Rustington defence To score a second. The second half was a dour struggle but the AFC were never in trouble and had chances to score goals.

The other local team appearing in a Good Friday final today, Saltdean United, also warmed up for their big day with a midweek win when they dispatched Ifield Edwards 1-0 at home in Division Three on Tuesday. The only goal of the game came from Richie Watton on 18 minutes.

The Tigers take on Rottingdean Village in today’s Division Three Challenge Cup Final at Fort Road, Newhaven FC, kick off 3pm.

Second half goals from Adam Mitchell (55 mins) and Marc Whiteman (86 mins) were enough to see Ringmer edge a 2-1 win away at local rivals Hailsham Town in the sides’ Division One meeting on Tuesday night. Shane Saunders replied for the Stringers with 20 minutes to go.