AFC Uckfield Town pulled off one of the biggest upsets in the first two months of the SCFL Premier Division season as they beat second-placed Lancing on their home turf, with Matt Maclean’s 15th minute goal proving decisive as the Uckers ended the Lancers’ 20-game unbeaten run over 90 minutes, reports Will Hugall.
In a game where neither side had more than a single great chance, the Uckers’ perfectly-executed game plan had the effect of harrying and restricting the Lancers in possession, a pattern that held throughout and secured victory after an error had enabled Maclean to score.
The Uckers’ intentions were clear in the early stages, with Lancing unable to build on an early sight of goal for debutant Brad Santos, who was denied by a strong tackle from Tayler Maddock, when they were repeatedly forced backwards in possession.
That desire to keep the ball would mean the Lancers made mistakes, and one misplaced pass saw Richie Welch win possession and Dee Okojie find Bailo Camara with a cross, with Camara heading down onto the outside of the post.
The resulting goal kick saw the Lancers defence gift possession to Liam Baitup, whose quick-thinking pass gave Matt Maclean space to run in the six-yard box, and with the finish across Taylor Seymour into the bottom left corner an easy one, Maclean gave the Uckers a 15th minute lead.
Uckfield were the side with their tail up after the goal, and minutes later Camara found Baitup in space with a pinpoint cross from the right, only for Alex Bygraves to come across and deny a clear shot at goal.
While more than holding their own, a moment of Uckers indiscipline almost cost them dearly before the end of the half, as Baitup was sin-binned for protests against an offside decision.
The Uckers had the better opportunity in the ensuing ten minutes, as Ellis Cormack’s attempted long-range lob on Seymour bounced just wide after Mo Juwara’s cross was cleared, and, temporarily levelling the numbers, the Lancers’ James Rhodes also received a sin bin in the final notable act of the half.
While Rhodes’ short second-half absence was fortune not to result in another Uckfield goal as Juwara prevented Dee Okojie shooting from a Maclean through-ball, the hosts were soon back on top after the break, and began to carry more threat.
Every pass that the hosts began to complete saw them gain confidence, and the pressure that built up should have soon resulted in an equaliser, only for superb last-ditch Uckers defending to charge down top goalscorer Lewis Finney’s exasperated effort; the striker unable to find a gap after a neat one-two with Rhodes, and Phil Hawkins collecting.
Midway through the half, Naim Rouane’s side reached a tempo that any opponent would find it difficult to cope with, but with no end product and the Uckers refused to tire, the best chance of the period actually forced Seymour into action, claiming a cross from Welch bound for Okojie.
After winning a free kick on the edge of the Uckers box, the Lancers did at least draw Hawkins out to collect at Matt Berridge’s feet when the midfielder almost ghosted in behind, but with substitutions actually disrupting their rhythm, the hosts’ threat again petered out.
With a number of Uckfield fouls enough to put the hosts off while being undeserving of any further punishment, time was rapidly diminishing for the Lancers to create anything of substance.
The last remaining half-chance saw Hawkins gather a through-ball aimed at George Mitchell-Phillips, and the Uckers could run down the clock to secure an unbelievable victory.
The Uckers move up one place to 10th after the result, and this Tuesday travel to SCFL Premier Division leaders Eastbourne Town in the Sussex Senior Cup First Round, where another upset would be required to progress, with a 7:45 p.m. kick-off at The Saffrons.
AFC Uckfield Town: Hawkins, Rodrigues-Barbosa, Cooper, Ryan Welch, Maddock, Richie Welch (C), Okojie (Pearson, 82’), Maclean, Baitup (Loft, 90+3’), Cormack, Camara
Unused: Creese, Storey