AFTER the convincing cup win against Pagham on the previous Tuesday AFC were back in league action, braving the roadworks on the way to Arundel.
Three changes from the side that had won midweek saw Terry Gacais slotting in at left back, Tom Swancott out on the right flank and Joe Cuttress tasked with pulling the strings in the middle. Grant Harrison was rested, Rich Greenfield and Brad Manton moved to the bench and Carl Barrett joining the bench from the reserves.
The game was played in the shadow of the historic and picturesque castle on a boggy surface. AFC started the brighter with the first chance coming on two minutes with Swancott latching onto an astute pass on the right flank and playing a great thorough ball to Andy McDowell, who shot in the side netting from a tight angle.
Six minutes saw an AFC free kick from the left whipped into the danger area with centre half Dan Pollard attempting an ambitious bicycle kick which sailed over the bar.
On 12 minutes and against the run of play, poor marking from an Arundel free kick saw the ball meet the majestic leap of the big centre forward and Mullets captain Scott Tipper on the far post, and he dispatched the ball off his bald pate with customary nonchalance.
A great chance for the visitors came on 28 minutes with the hard-working Divall finding two Arundel players doubled-up on him down the left side – only for him to beat the pair and launch an excocet, drawing a great save from the home stopper.
Ten minutes later parity was restored when a long ball from deep in the AFC half was played by Pollard and flicked on by McDowell into the path of Divall who coolly took his chance with great composure with a beautiful dink over the stranded keeper.
The first half ended with an Arundel ball in behind the cover with the unnamed player bearing down one-on-one with young Tom Betts, who made himself big going to ground making a smothering save.
The second half saw Divall and McDowell link up early down the right with a ball delivered to the far post but with no-one arriving to finish.
A further chance came on 53 minutes with Swancott driving thorough and releasing for McDowell to blast over the bar.
Arundel’s best chance came on 57 minutes, with Betts brought into action to make a spectacular double save to spare his side’s blushes.
Six minutes later Swancott was replaced by Greenfield, who made an immediate impact, crossing a peach of a ball to Divall on the far post to head across the face of goal again with the Arundel keeper saving at full stretch.
Moments later Greenfield was again the creator, roasting the full back and dispatching a great cross which only just missed the toe of the sliding Divall and hit to far stanchion – only to bounce out for the keeper to lay claim.
A double substitution by the vistors on 74 minutes saw Brad Manton coming on in place of Cuttress and Carl Barrett replacing Gacias.
A handful of other chances, mainly for the visitors, resulted in the equilibrium being broken on 86 mainly when the creative Greenfield floated another teasing ball in to McDowell. His header was blocked but Divall pounced on the loose ball to bury it in the net.
A double substitution on the stroke of full time by the home team drew the biggest laugh of the day when both teams realised that Arundel had 12 players on the pitch! The referee’s assistant looked suitably embarrassed as he tried to rectify the error.
The climax saw good saves by both keepers in time added on, with Brad Manton stretching the cover from a great pass by McDowell only for another great save to be made by the Arundel keeper. The home side then went straight up the other end, drawing Betts off his line but shooting over.
AFC looked hungover from Tuesday night’s cup match. The back line certainly got tested, especially by the efforts of Tipper who was a constant threat.
Uckfield failed to work hard enough in the first half and ball retention was poor.
A stronger performance came in the second half but it was still not a vintage showing.
Divall was highly influential, with some great saves by Betts, and super sub Greenfield brought the dying stages to life.
Tonight (Tuesday) sees the short trip to Ringmer in the quarter final of the Charity Cup.