In an all-SCFL FA Vase tie with Division One side Southwick, a free-flowing AFC Uckfield ran out to an eventual rout, with Callum Smith gaining his second hat-trick of the season, reports Will Hugall.
With just a sole change from the side that overcame the odds to secure a late midweek victory against Eastbourne Town, Regan Smith replaced the unavailable Dee Okojie for the hosts.
Wanting for form, the visiting Wickers regardless acquitted themselves competently early on, unfazed by the occasion.
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Identifying the Division One side’s vulnerability to the counter-attack, Callum Smith brought the first genuine save from an agile Aaron Howard, tipping over the crossbar.
In the 15th minute, Howard’s heroics were undone, as Regan Dunk played back to him under pressure and Bailo Camara stole possession, before easing into the open goal.
After 26 minutes, another Howard misjudgement allowed Smith to poke a lengthy Steve Hickman-Smith pass around the goalkeeper, and lift a cross into brother Regan, who clipped the crossbar.
As the Wickers backline crumbled, in the 35th minute the Uckers’ second eventually arrived; Callum Smith making a piercing run through the fragile defence and disguising a prodded shot beyond Howard from 10 yards.
A worthy third would have followed through Smith, after Black cleanly tackled, Matt Maclean had the awareness to offload a first-time assist and the striker struck the post. Three minutes into added time, however, an even better effort, and sumptuous second for Smith, closed proceedings; in a move from left to right, chesting down and looping with just enough dip to beat Howard into the top right corner.
Having waited patiently to relaunch into attack after a slight Wickers flurry, Uckfield bagged their fourth, and Smith his hat-trick, in the 70th minute, with an audacious left footed lob over Howard from 20 yards; selecting a faultless placement in the top right corner.
Shuffling their pack, the hosts threatened through substitutes Ellis Cormack and Bright Temba, with the former’s high-quality half-volley whistling past the far post. With 78 minutes gone, Black breached the Wickers box with a dazzling solo rub and was hauled down by Liam Reyland, and with the resulting spot-kick the local lad powered into the right inside netting.
As Maclean lashed onto the crossbar and Black was denied from a swirling strike, the Uckers finished with a flourish, and were perhaps unfortunate not to add to their margin of victory.
With the win extending the club’s second historic cup run this term – marking their first ever First Round draw appearance – first team boss Anthony Storey reflected on further progress. “I’m delighted with the performance. Last season we never had this kind of attacking threat or squad depth, and the competition for places is key to keeping this run, in all competitions, going.”
Joint-assistant player-manager Bailo Camara, also emphasised on the club’s current strength in depth. “Obviously I want to play every match personally, but we know whoever steps in can do the job required. Everyone has proven they are worthy of places, and that’s a massive boost for the week ahead.”
Again hosting cup action, Uckfield return to The Oaks this Tuesday as they welcome Littlehampton Town for a Sussex RUR Cup Second Round tie, kicking off at 7:30pm.
Line-up: Rogers, Ryan Welch (Norman, 59’), Rodrigues-Barbosa, Hickman-Smith, Sheriff, Richie Welch (C) (Cormack, 63’), R. Smith, Maclean, C. Smith (Temba, 71’), Black, Camara. Unused: Cooper, Janneh
Mascot Charlie Ryan man-of-the-match award to Callum Smith.