Tuesday, 26 August 2014

AFC Uckfield Town 0 v 0 Bexhill United

Monday 25th August 2014
Sussex County League Division Two
The Oaks, Uckfield
Admission including Programme: £5.00
Attendance: 20
Match Rating: 3

For my August Bank Holiday action, I decided to stay local today. Although it would mean revisiting two grounds, this was no great hardship considering the first game would be at one of the more attractive rural football grounds at senior level, and the second would be a local derby between two clubs close to my heart. Heavy rain forecast for much of the day also meant that driving, rather relying on public transport, was a much more palatable option.

AFC Uckfield Town were only formed this summer following a merger between the town's two senior clubs, AFC Uckfield and Uckfield Town. They play at the former home of AFC Uckfield (as Uckfield Town's Victoria Pleasure Ground would never be able to host senior football) and took that club's place in Division Two of the Sussex League, whilst the new club adopted the red and black striped kit of Uckfield Town. The Oaks is a couple of miles south of the town and is much the same as it was on my previous visit nine years ago. Entering the ground in one corner, through a very neat and easy on the eye turnstile hut, a couple of metallic stands straddle through half way line, both having a couple of rows of seats along the front, with standing room to the rear. There is hard standing along the rest of the length and behind both goals. The remaining length is now closed off to supporters, but has quite attractive wooden fencing and support for netting. the ground has a very enclosed feel to it, closely surrounded by thick trees, giving a lovely rural, green and peaceful feel to it. One thing that may need to be addressed at some stage is that the ground and clubhouse is still painted in the blue colours of the former AFC Uckfield club. The spacious, comfortable and inviting clubhouse is located outside the ground, whilst the programme, included with admission, is a very good effort for this level, with plenty to read inside and printed in colour.

AFC Uckfield Town have made a good start to their league season, winning both of their opening games, 3-1 against Rustington at home and 0-1 away at Seaford, but they bowed out of the League Cup, losing 1-3 at home to Saltdean. Bexhill won their only league game so far, 1-2 at Mile Oak, after losing their opening game of the season in the League Cup 3-4 against cross-town rivals Little Common. Last season, Bexhill United finished in eighth place, whilst AFC Uckfield finished in tenth (and Uckfield Town ironically had their best season for many a year, finishing fourth in the division below, the intermediate level Division Three).

With rain constantly falling in advance of kick off and throughout the match, this was quite a strange match that was end to end, with plenty of effort and heart on show, but with precious few goalscoring chances created. Certainly the wet conditions with a slippery surface didn't help. The best chance of the first half came three minutes before half time, when an Uckfield free kick was well saved by the keeper to his left.

Into the second half and Bexhill carved out some reasonable chances to score. On 54 minutes, after the ball was played backwards in the area, a powerful low shot was saved the keeper, whilst on 66 minutes, a Bexhill throw-in was headed on into the area, and a cross-shot hit the outside of the post and went wide. Two minutes later and Bexhill probably had the best chance of the match. The ball was dinked over the defence, finding a Bexhill forward unopposed deep inside the area, but he fired his shot just wide of the far post. A poor miss after doing ever so well to get into a great position in the first place. A minute later and it was Uckfield's turn to have a good chance, following a great cross field ball forward, but the shot was slashed wide from a slight angle. Despite plenty of huff and puff, there never looked likely to be a goal for the rest of the match and the teams had to settle for a point each, which was probably the right result despite Bexhill carving out more goalscoring opportunities. So, my first goalless match of the season, but this was actually quite an entertaining game. Despite the lack of real goalscoring chances, there was plenty of attacking endeavour and commitment show in a match played in increasingly difficult conditions.

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