AFC Uckfield on the up - and aim to end that way at home

AFC Uckfield Town return to SCFL Premier Division action on Saturday as they welcome Alfold as this season’s final visitors to The Oaks.

It’s been a season of variable fortunes for the Oakmen, but one that is certainly finishing on a high note after a recent five-match unbeaten run.

March featured a blowout 4-0 win at Loxwood, a crucial 2-1 victory at Horsham YMCA and a draw against high-flyers Bexhill United before the narrow 1-0 defeat to Littlehampton Town.

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It’s a run of games that has left manager Steve Ives feeling positive about the team. Ives said: “Looking at the last five games particularly, I think we did what we had to do against East Preston and Loxwood, which was score some goals and get the three points. [The Horsham YMCA game] is probably the most important win of the lot, because that was the one that clawed us back towards [them].

Action from AFC Uckfield's recent home clash with Bexhill / Picture: Mike Skinner

“The two draws with Peacehaven and Bexhill just show that we’ll be competitive with anyone, whether they’re top, middle or bottom of the league.”

The Oakmen sit in 15th place after that run, and with four games remaining can finish as high as 12th. Alfold currently occupy that spot, while Uckfield are among five teams all within six points of the Surrey outfit. That chase for position is something which provides a great incentive at this stage of the season.

Ives said: “From our point of view, we’ve got four games left, obviously 12 points available. With Horsham YMCA and Alfold immediately above us, that’s target number one; can we reel both of those in?”

A key reason behind the team turning things around is a recent flurry of goals, with more attacking play sourcing out from one particular addition. Ives said: “Having a constant goal threat had been something that we’d found a little bit elusive up until we signed Jacob Feasey from Hailsham. I think we saw that against Horsham YMCA, when not only did he score but he won a penalty after a minute and he was just a constant menace.”

Feasey – who scored 10 goals in 23 games for Hailsham – has made the step up in divisions look easy, even holding his own against two of the top four teams in Littlehampton Town and Bexhill. He didn’t get a goal on those occasions, but things could’ve been different with more fortune, Ives believes.

He said: “[With] Littlehampton, despite the fact that a lot of people are saying that it’s credible to go there and only lose 1-0, I’m really disappointed. I’m disappointed in the fact that we can’t take a full side down there.”

He added: “We literally went there with a bit of a shell of a side, and in some eyes, it was damage limitation, of which the boys worked very hard and done a good job. But I would’ve loved to have gone there with all of my attackers available, because I think we could’ve given them a really good game.”

Attentions after that game, however, quickly turned to Alfold and avenging a 2-0 on the road there in September. Only one player who started on that day for Alfold played in their most recent game, with manager Mark Wright having a big impact since moving from the role of chairman in November.

Ives added: “In fairness, after a shaky spell, they appear to be doing very good things with a good group of young players, so it’s not that dissimilar from what we’re trying to achieve here. You look at their results, they’re in form, and we’re fully aware that we’ve got to turn up and we’ve got to be at our best to get anything from it.”

Although it took Wright seven games as manager to claim his first win, ‘Fold have hit their best spell of the season with three wins in their last five games, including the scalps of Eastbourne Town and Eastbourne United. In the only two previous meetings between the sides, Alfold have come out victors on both occasions.

The Oakmen will be keen to turn that record around, then, and are looking forward to hopefully ending their home run this season on a high. Ives said: “I think if you want to come and see two young, up-and-coming sides in the SCFL then it’ll be a good [match] to be at.”

After a tough season at times, things are certainly blossoming in spring, with attendances up at The Oaks and squad spirit improving all the time. Ives said: “The support makes a massive difference to the players, and actually to myself and the management team as well. It just gives you a boost when you feel like your efforts are being noticed and being recognised.

He added: “There’s a lot of people behind the season putting work in – people like Graham Sullivan, Mike Skinner, Adrian Saunders, Jamie Vale – and I think it would be nice for them if we could get a decent number of people out. Get yourselves down, get yourself a beer if that’s your tipple of choice, and let’s see if we can finish strong.”

Kick-off will be 3PM at The Oaks, with admission £6 for adults, £3 for concessions and free for all Under-16s.