After standout seasons in 2018/19, AFC Uckfield Town and Horsham YMCA both trail the early Premier Division leaders this year, and after starting with great ambitions, will be keen to make up ground, writes Will Hugall.
As they meet in a game previously rearranged due to cup involvements, Anthony Storey and Peter Buckland’s teams face off for the second time this season, this time with designs on securing all three points.
Following a 2-1 defeat to Saltdean United three days ago, the Uckers were leapfrogged in the Premier Division table by the Tigers and now sit 11th after seven matches - amongst a pack of sides looking to push on after mixed starts.
With a significant gap only opening up for the top two clubs, the Uckers know that if they can win tonight, they will go back to within three points of third-placed Crawley Down Gatwick, which considering their commitments in several cups may be an encouraging result so far.
However, defeat would see Buckland’s team draw level on points with them. Even if goal difference would likely prevent YM from taking 11th place, the Uckers will want to avoid that possibility, not least to make history.
The 2011/12 season was the last, and to date only, time the club has beaten YM at home, when predecessors AFC Uckfield came out 3-1 victors against the West Sussex side.
Although the two most recent meetings have also seen Storey’s men come out on top – 3-2 in their Peter Bentley Cup semi-final in February, and 3-1 three weeks ago in the RUR Cup – YM’s dominance elsewhere, with ten wins in the seven years between, suggest this will be another closely fought match.
YMCA sit 16th in the league and, with a run to the FA Cup first qualifying round partially dampened by early exits in the Peter Bentley and RUR Cups, YM’s season has yet to really take off.
However, a team in a period of rebuilding has still managed some notable results, including two league wins at the tricky venues of Loxwood and Saltdean United.
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The occasion of the FA Cup has also appeared to bring the best out of the side. YMCA achieved victories against Croydon and Egham Town before a narrow 2-1 defeat to BetVictor Premier Division side Margate. YM will be hoping they can find more consistency in performances like those, starting at The Oaks.
With the returning Martin Smith and new recruit Matt Daniel both notching up six goals already, the persisting issue to securing wins seems instead to be in defence. A run of 14 games without a clean sheet will want to be ended as soon as possible.
But goals are unlikely to be at a premium tonight. Alongside the Uckers’ own 11-game drought of clean sheets and the 48 goals shared in the two teams’ last ten meetings, an exciting match should be in store.
The Premier Division fixture between AFC Uckfield Town vs Horsham YMCA is scheduled to kick-off at 7:30 p.m., with no pitch inspection likely to be required despite forecasts for rain.
Directions to The Oaks (Framfield, TN22 5QL) are available, via Google Maps, here.
Admission is £6 for adults, £3 for concessions, and free for children.
Live updates will be available throughout the match on the @AfcUckfieldTown Twitter page, while a report will be available in Friday’s editions of the Express for Uckfield and Lewes, and their surrounding villages.