With the 2019-20 season’s FA Vase competition returning this weekend for its second round, one of the standout ties sees AFC Uckfield Town head to Walthamstow FC and seeking something of an upset against the north-east London side, writes Will Hugall.
After being rewarded with a bye to this round for their heroics last season, the real work for the Uckers starts this weekend.
With one of the biggest sides in the competition in terms of history and form awaiting them, a fiercely competitive tie is guaranteed.
For the Uckers, waiting to join the competition has been an unprecedented experience, having never gone beyond the Vase’s first round before last season.
On this occasion, however, they are one of just five Sussex entrants to this round. The majority of their SCFL counterparts fell before this stage leaving the Uckers to carry the torch for the county.
In terms of adapting to their new tag as cup experts, the Uckers will take confidence from continuing to compete, just as they did exactly a year ago, on five different fronts in league and cup.
As well as carrying a current run of five consecutive victories into this match – most recently, winning a pulsating RUR Cup match 4-3 at Broadbridge Heath – Anthony Storey’s side can draw inspiration from other trends which they may hope bode well this weekend.
For example, the Uckers have won seven of their last nine matches against Greater London sides, including away at Welling United this August and famously at AFC Croydon Athletic at this stage last season.
The Uckers hadn’t so much as won an away match in an FA competition before last season, but with three wins and a draw since will have no fear in the trip over the Thames.
With last season’s invaluable experience added to the previous semi-final pedigree of Shaun Loft and Matt Maclean to call on too, the Uckers should provide a stern test.
Uckfield’s opponents this weekend have many reasons to believe a third round spot is in their hands and current manager Ryan Maxwell has made clear their intentions to go deep in the competition this season.
Building on their third-place finish in the Essex Senior League in 2018-19, the Stags again currently sit third and are yet to face a league defeat.
They set five points behind league leaders, the YouTube-born side Hashtag United, with two games in hand.
For a side with the title as the second oldest in London, their current achievements are yet another chapter in over 150 years of history.
Through seven name changes, two mergers and eight relocations, the current club can trace its roots back to Leyton FC, founded in 1868, and with such an extensive legacy can claim to be a relative giant of this competition.
In the FA Amateur Cup – the unofficial forerunner to the Vase – Leyton won both the 1927 and 1928 editions, while reaching four further finals between 1929 and 1952; part of a strong scene in their area, with Leytonstone, Ilford and Walthamstow Avenue also accumulating seven victories.
Since the Amateur Cup disbanded in 1974, the club’s various forms had, until recently, fared reasonably well in the Vase, with Leyton Wingate reaching the quarter-finals in 1983-84 and the fifth Round twice in the late ‘70s.
Since Leytonstone Pennant made the third round in 2001-02, however, success in the FA Cup, Trophy or Vase has been hard to come by, a trend the current side will hope they can reverse this weekend.
Under the leadership of former journeyman midfielder Maxwell – a Northern Irish youth international who has played for 32 clubs at age 36 – a record of 51 goals scored and only 15 conceded this season is certainly impressive, but in just their sixth ever meeting with a Sussex side anything could happen.