The fixture list doesn’t get any easier for AFC Uckfield Town, as after defeating the SCFL Premier Division’s 2nd-placed side Lancing on their own patch last Saturday, the Uckers make the trip to outright league leaders Eastbourne Town tonight.
In this Sussex Senior Cup First Round tie, the odds may be against the Uckers, but if they can carry momentum and emulate previous performances in the competition, they may be allowed to dream of pulling off another huge upset, writes Will Hugall.
Though they did not have to be at their attacking best, resilience and a superb team effort saw Uckfield over the line against Lancing in their 1-0 victory three days ago.
Recent history may not have made the result a total surprise, as the Uckers’ third straight victory at Culver Road, but the win was certainly a significant one in the light of other records.
Against sides who went on to finish in any SCFL Premier season’s top five since 2014-15, the Uckers have only claimed four victories – with only two on the road.
Whether the Lancers maintain their current form or not, the Uckers will know the significance of the victory even at this stage of the season, particularly in terms of laying out their ambitions.
With the Sussex Senior Cup being an entirely different competition, however, the Uckers may, at least initially, find it harder to find positive signals.
Since 2014, the Uckers have never cleared the Second Round, partly thanks to three meetings at that stage with higher division clubs, but one place from which they can draw inspiration is in the form of their predecessors in the competition.
As a Sussex County League Division Two side, AFC Uckfield developed a reputation for upsets, beating five Division One clubs between 2005 and 2014 and claiming the scalp of Hastings United, then of the Isthmian Premier, in the 2010-11 Second Round.
Since 2005, the Uckers’ home record in First Round matches is faultless with eight progressions, but they will want to improve upon their history at the same stage away, with three wins and three defeats – including, in the 2015-16 season, an agonising 6-5 penalty shoot-out defeat to tonight’s opponents following a 2-2 draw after extra-time.
Eastbourne Town FC
In the long history of the Senior Cup, there have been few more successful sides than Eastbourne’s oldest club, whose back catalogue includes 12 titles and nine runners-up medals.
While their most recent victory came in 1953 – with eight of their wins taking place up to 1903 – and their last final appearance took place in 1978, Town’s record may be a testament to past success, but another notable chapter in their relationship with the cup was certainly added last season.
In a rearranged Quarter-Final tie in February, they took a Brighton & Hove Albion Under-23s side featuring three players to since make their senior debuts to extra-time, before losing 2-0.
That run, combined with a superb second half of their 2018-19 league season, confirmed John Lambert’s side as one of the strongest Sussex sides at the ninth tier, a reputation they have only consolidated this season.
With a three-point lead at the top of the SCFL Premier table after beating Horsham YMCA 5-0 last weekend, expectations will have only been heightened for a real chance of promotion following the frustration of five consecutive top-five finishes.
Lambert will know to keep his team grounded, however, after a 10-match winning streak at home was ended by Peacehaven & Telscombe in the Peter Bentley Cup last week, and the club will look to avoid a repeat tonight as they go for multiple honours this season.
Eastbourne Town FC vs AFC Uckfield Town kicks off this evening at 7:45 p.m. at The Saffrons (Eastbourne, BN21 1EA), with directions to the ground available via Eastbourne Town’s website here.
Admission is £6 for adults, £3 for concessions, and free for under-16s.
Live updates will be available throughout the match on the @AfcUckfieldTown and @eastbournetfc Twitter pages, with a full report to follow on Wednesday.