Off-colour AFC Uckfield slip to defeat against Eastbourne United
AFC Uckfield Town suffered a frustrating evening in their first home game under lights for four months, with visitors Eastbourne United proving the better side and scoring two soft goals to take victory.
An early goal from Alfie Headland and a second-half penalty from Charlie Ball were the difference on the night, but the story could’ve been very different had fortune gone another way.
Uckfield had the first significant chance, for example, as a lovely passing move from right to left ended with Sam Carrington flicking an effort at goal.
Only two minutes later, however, United took the lead in the 8th minute. Left-back Jack Murphy’s free kick from the right found Headland towering above every Uckfield player, and the ex-Lewes defender’s header sailed into the net past Jason Tibble.
The Uckfield team was missing three of its starters from a 4-1 win over AFC Varndeanians at the weekend, with Dan Tear, Alexx Kendall and Farrell Ryder all absent through injury. This seemed to affect the Uckers throughout the first half as they were unable to consistently create opportunities, with passes either being misplaced or finding players in offside positions.
After United’s Alfie Peacock fizzed a free kick over the bar, George Cook did respond for the Uckers with an angled drive at Dan Hutchins, but this was an isolated threat. In particular, the fortunes of the two number nines on display reflected how happy each side could be before half-time. United’s Festos Kamara dominated, but Uckfield’s Sam Carrington was forced to withdraw injured.
While the Uckers impressed at the start of the second half, with substitute Aaron Baker spearheading a more energetic approach, the share of chances was still level at best. Adam Davidson and Charlie Ball narrowly missed the target for United, while for the Oakmen, Jamie Wilkes placed a free header straight at Dan Hutchins before Baker lifted a close-range volley just inches over the bar.
At this point, the Uckers seemed to be building good momentum. Only minutes later, however, the game’s pivotal moment soon pulled the rug from underneath them. With a through ball played on the counter to Peacock, a desperate challenge from Sam Cash brought down the winger just inside the box.
Away captain Ball stepped up from the spot, and though Tibble guessed the right way, the ‘keeper couldn’t quite get enough contact to prevent the deficit becoming two in the 70th minute. United sub Rovu Boyer smacked the Uckfield crossbar with a header soon after, but even with the game becoming more open, the chance for more goals looks slim.
Luke Blewden headed agonisingly over in the dying minutes from the Uckers’ best chance, and though they tried hard until full-time, the hosts were ultimately relieved to see the end of an uninspired evening.
After the game, Uckers manager Steve Ives reflected on his side’s performance. Ives said: “The main attraction of coming to Uckfield was to provide an opportunity for young players to get first team opportunities. We have to remember that inconsistency comes with lack of experience and I guess the swing from Saturday to Tuesday’s performance is evidence of this.
“I’ve consciously added a couple more experienced players this season, as we learnt in the Supplementary Shield that sometimes it can be a bit too much of an ask to play a whole team of U23s. It does show when the majority of those senior players are unavailable, we lose an element of leadership which results in us losing our way a bit when things are going against us.”
On the absence of key players, Ives said: “It would be great to have a settled squad, particularly off the back of a good result but I’ve got a feeling football at this level is going to be challenging for most managers this season, as people seem to have particularly busy social schedules. We’ve also got a busy physio at the moment – Carra is the seventh player currently struggling with an injury!”
The Oakmen return to action this Saturday, as they welcome Eastbourne Town to The Oaks. Kick-off will be at 3pm, with a large and noisy crowd expecting for what is always one of the biggest fixtures on the calendar.
AFC Uckfield Town: Tibble, Cash, Wright, Wilkes, Hover, Blewden, Vale (Bignell, 87’), Plummer, Carrington (C) (Baker, 42’), Pearson, Cook (Bateman, 78’). Unused: Duncan, Parsons
Eastbourne United AFC: Hutchins, Headland, Murphy, Corbin (Molyneux, 83’), Davidson, Ray, Asante (Boyer, 76’), Tate, Kamara (Connell, 89’), Ball (C), Peacock. Unused: Lee, Maybury