In a gritty midweek encounter, AFC Uckfield secured three points and extended their winning run to seven games in all competitions, with a late finish from Matt Black overcoming visitors Eastbourne Town, reports Will Hugall.
Enforcing a single change from the previous weekend’s famous FA Cup triumph over AFC Croydon Athletic, Anthony Storey restored Callum Smith up front in place of Bright Temba.
Although far from lethargic, the initial stages showed the efforts of both sides in hard-fought victories only three days earlier. An accumulation of mistimed tackles eventually spilled over into Sam Carrington’s booking for a kick at Uckers captain Richie Welch, while Bailo Camara felt the lasting impression of another foul.
After a Black header met Camara’s wide free-kick delivery – skewing wide of Jordan Hawkins’ post – flashes of fluency came from Camara, to nutmeg George Taggart and dribble into the final third, before Matt Maclean was hauled down.
Otherwise nullified by the visitors’ deep defensive block, it was only through a seemingly innocuous 35th minute collision in the Town box that Smith won the hosts a penalty, while felled when attempting to reach a cross. Extending his perfect record for the season, Dee Okojie dispatched the spot-kick by planting into the left of the goal.
Regathering offensively after the interval, Town dominated an aerial midfield game and caused concern in the Uckers box, as Aaron Capon failed to trap an enticing cross, and Dan Perry’s follow-up was deflected.
After a series of stoppages disrupted visiting pressure, the Uckers’ advantage appeared ever more vulnerable; Matt Rodrigues-Barbosa chipping over Capon to clear a Taggart cross, and Louis Rogers smothering Perry.
For the Uckers, the outbreak of a set-piece scuffle in the 76th minute spelled disaster. With Camara red carded and Town awarded a penalty, winger Sam Cole converted with confidence after a protracted build-up; burying into the bottom right corner.
Entirely in the ascendancy, Town launched a full-scale offensive on the Uckers backline, with Rogers forced into a split-second stop to a low Perry free-kick creeping inside his post.
An 84th minute throw-in opportunity, however, saw all aerial threats camped in the Town box as Ryan Welch looped a full-blooded effort into the target of Smith, who rose highest, and left the finishing task to Black; peeling off the back of his marker and placing a header into the top right corner, beating Hawkins’ attempts to claw away,
With Rogers’ goal impenetrable, substitute Shaun Loft enforcing the Uckers defence and Evan Archibald misfiring from the best remaining opportunity; composure saw Uckfield unscathed to the close, sealing a ten-match unbeaten record to equal the longest such run of the 2017-18 season.
Rewarded for a First Qualifying Round success over Hollands and Blair, Uckfield return this Saturday to host SCFL Division One side Southwick in the FA Vase, kicking off at 3pm.
Line-up: Rogers, Ryan Welch, Rodrigues-Barbosa, Hickman-Smith, Sheriff, Richie Welch (C) (Loft, 88’), Okojie (Temba, 65’), Maclean (Cormack, 67’), C. Smith, Black, Camara. Unused: Norman, R. Smit