AFC Uckfield Town 1-3 Dartford - In the end we’ve been patient and kept at it and our quality and our fitness has shone through at the end, says Dartford co-manager Jamie Coyle

Saturday 22nd September 2018
AFC Uckfield Town 1 – 3 Dartford
Location The Oaks, Eastbourne Road, Uckfield, East Sussex TN22 5QL
Kickoff 22/09/2018 15:00

The Emirates FA Cup Second Qualifying Round
Saturday 22 September 2018
Stephen McCartney reports from The Oaks

DARTFORD co-manager Jamie Coyle says class and fitness ensured his side progressed through to The FA Cup Third Qualifying Round by ending AFC Uckfield Town’s longest run in the competition.

Anthony Storey’s side went into the game on an impressive 12 match unbeaten run and having beaten Glebe (1-0), Broadfields United (4-1) and AFC Croydon Athletic (1-0) in The FA Cup this season, which has banked the club £11,140 in prize money from The Football Association.

Uckfield were in seventh-place in the Southern Combination League Premier Division table with 11 points from six games but Dartford in sixteenth-place in the Vanarama National League South table with 12 points from five league games were given a mighty scare from Storey’s men.

A record crowd of 500 were at The Oaks to see a typical FA Cup tie.  Fans crowded underneath two covered stands, the rest huddled under umbrellas along the touchline and on grass banks behind one goal of the small three-sided ground.

AFC Uckfield Town were on course of pulling off their greatest ever result in their history when striker Callum Smith swept home his fifteenth-goal of the season just three minutes before half-time.

Dartford were destined to be on the end of a FA Cup giant-killing but three goals inside the final nine minutes gave them a flattering 3-1 win.

Super-sub Tom Murphy rescued his side by levelling nine minutes from time and this clearly deflated AFC Uckfield Town’s players, who put everything into the game.

Striker Charlie Sheringham found the bottom corner to give Dartford the lead before captain Elliot Bradbrook hooked in a flattering third inside injury time.

“It’s tough, it was always going to be difficult,” said Coyle during the post-match press conference. 

“I think it’s one of the smallest pitches I’ve ever seen, against a team that are on a brilliant run of form.  Confidence is high, haven’t lost for 12 games and you could see the togetherness out there.

“They slowed the game down and I would expect from a team that are three divisions below and even at 0-0 it was becoming frustrating for the players as well as myself on the side.

“In the end we’ve been patient and kept at it and our quality and our fitness has shone through at the end.”

AFC Uckfield Town set the tone to make it an awkward afternoon for Dartford when Callum Smith hooked his shot past the left-hand post from 25-yards after only ten seconds.

The home side almost got off to a dream start inside the opening eight minutes after Dartford centre-half Ronnie Vint fouled Callum Smith, a battering ram who was keen to run the left-channel.

The excellent Calum Sheriff floated in the resulting free-kick into the Dartford box, the ball was punched away by goalkeeper Deren Ibrahim and left-winger Regan Smith’s low drive beat the keeper at his near post but Vint was on hand to clear the ball off the line beside the post.

Coyle admitted: “We could’ve potentially been 2-0 down, it’s frustrating, it really was.  We were way below par in the first half, very poor today.”

Dartford had to score an early goal to stamp their authority on the game and it almost came a couple minutes later.

Lee Noble played the ball out wide to right-winger Ben Greenhalgh, who whipped in a great cross towards the far post and Sheringham brought the ball down and flicked his shot across the keeper and into the net but assistant referee Kirsty Dowle raised her offside flag.

Coyle said:  “It looked really close, apparently a couple of the players said he wasn’t offside but again it’s a great ball in from Ben.  We worked on it on Thursday night at training. He’s picked up a good position on the far post and got in and scored.

“We just can’t talk about that one chance.  We didn’t create a lot more chances in the first half and we were a bit lacklustre.”

Richie Welch slid in to foul Greenhalgh on the edge of the penalty area and Sheringham’s right-footed free-kick was driven into the wall and Sheriff (on the end of it) stuck out his knee and deflected it across the stranded keeper and past the post for a corner.

“It was a good chance. I actually thought it went in.  There were a couple of half chances in the first half but we flattered to deceive a little bit in the first half,” admitted Coyle.

Sheringham, who played wide left during the first half, linked up well with lone striker Delano Sam-Yorke, but Uckfield’s back four was resilient for the entire first half and proved to be a tough nut to crack, despite being three levels lower than Dartford.

Uckfield forced a free-kick down the left and Dee Okojie floated in a free-kick, which was cleared out to Regan Smith, who lacked composure on the very edge of the Dartford box and took a touch before slicing his shot harmlessly wide.

Dartford keeper Ibrahim made a fine diving save to frustrate AFC Uckfield Town in the 36th minute, diving low to his right to tip behind Callum Smith’s angled drive towards the bottom near corner after the striker was played in behind down the left-channel.

“He was a handful for us today. He caused us too many problems than I would’ve liked really,” said Coyle.

“I think in the end a little bit of fitness told and he faded away a little bit but he’s clearly on good form this year and he’s scoring goals at this level.”

Greenhalgh swung in a left-footed free-kick in from the right and Bradbrook rose at the near post and his downward header was comfortably gathered by Louis Rogers.

However, there were scenes of wild celebrations when AFC Uckfield Town deservedly seized their moment, taking the lead with 41 minutes and 3 seconds on the clock.

Regan Smith floated in a deep free-kick from the left and midfielder Matt McLean rose at the far post to knock the ball across goal.  Sheriff was in the middle and couldn’t apply the finish but Callum Smith did, sweeping the ball across the diving Ibrahim, the ball nestling into the bottom far corner from six-yards.

“I would say they deserved to be 1-0 up at half-time,” admitted Coyle.

“It was a silly free-kick to give away in a dangerous area and we didn’t clear the first or the second phase and the boys that’s on form has scored the goal.

“We’ve been saying it all season, we’ve got to be better in both boxes.  Defensively there’s three phases there we’ve had opportunities to clear and we didn’t and at the other end we had some great balls go in to good areas and we didn’t look like we were going to get on the end of it or got that kind of intelligence or desire to make those runs and that’s the frustrating thing because it was a tough game, it was very compact, it was a very tight pitch and we could’ve potentially taken a couple of set-pieces and gone in ahead.”

Nothing was going right for Dartford during a lacklustre first half.  Ibrahim launched a big kick, which Uckfield’s right-back Ryan Welch slipped as he attempted to head the ball clear but keeper Rogers rushed off his line to clear the ball into touch to deny Greenhalgh a sniff at goal.

Coyle said: “We made a change at half-time to go 4-4-2 and brought Jamie Philpot on and we stretched the game a little bit and Murphy came on to score and set a goal up as well, which is brilliant for him.

“It’s tough on Delano Sam-Yorke because he was singled out by coming off but it could’ve been five or six that could’ve come off after the first half performance but once again third week in a row they’ve shown brilliant character and I want to finish on a positive and we needed that! 

“The last two weeks we’ve come back and scored late equalisers and today we’ve been patient and our quality and fitness has shone in the end.”

Coyle revealed he had words with his under-performing side during the half-time interval and he brought on striker Jamie Philpott for the struggling Sam-Yorke.

Dartford’s first opening arrived inside the opening seven minutes when right-back Mark Onyemah released Philpott down the channel and he played the impressive Greenhalgh on the overlap and he cut the ball back for Sheringham, to take a touch before drilling a low left-footed drive from 20-yards from the corner of the box, forcing Rogers to hold the shot low to his left.

“Charlie done well today, especially when he went central and he was more of a threat,” said Coyle.

“They were combining well Ben and Mark and when Murphy went on the left-hand side there were some good combinations in wide areas today and it was just getting that end product and that little bit of quality into the box and we got it a couple of times and luckily we scored from one of them.”

Noble hung over a cross from the right and Sheringham fed the ball in behind left-back Matt Barbosa for Philpott to put over a cross from the by-line but Bradbrook smacked his hooked volley over the crossbar from inside the box.

Chez Isaac, who was a holding midfielder for the first half before slotting into the middle of the park alongside Bradbrook in a 4-4-2 formation after the break, skipped past Matt Black’s sliding challenge but his right-footed drive from 30-yards sailed over the crossbar.

AFC Uckfield Town weren’t a threat during the second half but they should have done better in the 62nd minute.

Black’s flicked pass sent substitute left-winger Bright Temba charging down the left wing and he skipped past Kenneth Yao (who was making his debut, on loan from Sky Bet League One side Charlton Athletic) and he played the ball inside for Black to whip his right-footed shot high over the top of the far post from outside the area.

When asked about the possibility of being on the end of a giant killing act, Coyle replied: “I think it always goes through your mind especially when we’ve had a couple of deflections just go wide and the keeper made a good save and a couple of ricochets in their box that didn’t quite land for us and you’re thinking on the side is it going to be one of those days? Thankfully we were patient and we got our deserved win in the end.”

Uckfield’s players were throwing their bodies on the line as Dartford upped the tempo and their urgency levels the longer the game went on.

Uckfield’s chance of pulling off a giant-killing act diminished when Regan Smith suffered cramp in his right-leg and received treatment from Ibrahim, his physio and Yao before being substituted.

Winger Okojie and midfielder Black took an age to walk off the pitch when Storey replaced them, which frustrated Coyle and his men. 

“It is part of the game. I thought their game management was brilliant,” said Coyle. 

“You look at it in the first half every goal-kick and every throw-on took two or three minutes and the referee didn’t get hold of it.  We were constantly asking the referee to speak to them and get it going, he didn’t! He didn’t take control of the game and they capitalised on it and they slowed everything down but that’s what you’re expecting when you’re coming to a team that are three divisions below.  They are going to manage the game and slow it down, especially when they took the lead in the first half.”

Greenhalgh floated in a free-kick from the left and Vint rose at the far post to plant his header over the crossbar.

Yao’s whipped in a deep cross form the right and Greenhalgh’s shot on the turn was smothered by a combination of Sheriff and Rogers at the near post as the half reached the halfway stage.

But Murphy’s introduction sparked Dartford into life down the left and he gave Uckfield’s right-back Ryan Welch problems.

Ibrahim slipped over on the wet turf after kicking the ball straight down the middle of the pitch for Sheringham to flick his header out to Greenhalgh on the right and he cut inside and drilled his shot past the stranded keeper from 22-yards but against the top of the near post with 15 minutes left.

“It was a great opportunity for him.  The positives today are we’ve created a lot of chances in the last half-an-hour and we knocked on the door and could’ve scored a few more,” added Coyle.

Isaac floated in a cross from the left and Sheringham looped his rising header just over the crossbar as Uckfield’s players sat back due to tiredness.

Dominant Dartford certainly deserved their equaliser when it finally arrived with 35 minutes and 12 seconds on the clock.

Dartford pushed bodies forward as defender Tom Bonner found himself on the edge of the Uckfield box, which was crowded and he picked out Murphy in space on the left and he cut inside and bent his low shot through the crowd and into the bottom far corner from the corner of the penalty area.

Coyle said:  “I think Murphs ready did come on and changed the game today, he was brilliant, took his goal fantastic to get us back in the game and real intelligence (for the second goal) to head it back across the six-yard box instead of going for goal and it was a tap-in.

“It was nice for Murphs, he’s been out injured and he’s been patient waiting for his opportunity and he’s taken it today.”

Dartford carried on knocking on the door and smashed it into pieces, which was reward for their rain-soaked supporters around the tiny venue.

Dartford won the corner count 6-5 and Greenhalgh played their last one short to Murphy, who whipped in a cross for Vint to knock the ball back for Bonner to hook his right-footed volley over the crossbar from 22-yards.

Onyemah got in behind Ryan Welsh, who slipped to the ground and the Dartford man cut the ball back for Sheringham to lash his first time drive over the crossbar from 16-yards.

Dartford took the lead with 40 minutes and 51 seconds, thanks to a tired Uckfield not pressing Ibrahim or Vint as they played out from the back following Yao’s back-pass.

Vint strode forward from the heart of defence and crossed the halfway line before slipping a 30-yard pass along the deck into Sheringham’s feet and he turned his man and placed his left-footed nestling sweetly into the bottom right-hand corner from 16-yards.

“He took it really well, it’s a great strike,” said Coyle.

“They were getting a little deeper and deeper as the game progressed and they got tired and a lot of space was created in midfield and in the final third.  He did brilliantly, he took it on the half-turn and struck it really well with his left-foot, his weaker foot, into the bottom corner.”

The third goal was harsh on Storey’s men but Bradbrook notched his fourth goal of the campaign, 53 seconds into stoppage time.

Philpott played a crossfield pass to Greenhalgh, who skipped past Barbosa down the right and he whipped in a deep cross from the right, which was knocked down by an unmarked Murphy for Bradbrook to hook his shot across the keeper to end Uckfield’s unbeaten run of games.

Coyle said: “Elliot done well. We tried to get Elliot up when we had three in there centrally, trying to get him make a few late runs into the box. He’s got great timing of runs. He can play and that’s where he’s scored 15-20 goals in the last few seasons outside of his penalties. He was good today, he dominated in midfield and got a goal he deserved in the end.”

Coyle, who runs the side alongside Adam Flanagan, heaped plenty of praise on AFC Uckfield Town, who gave Dartford a scare.

“It’s a testament to their management team and the players.  I thought they were fantastic today and really made us work, really, really made us work and we expected nothing else,” said Coyle.

“The three games that me and Adam have watched, the reports that we’ve got, you’re always going to have a tough game.  I think i the first half we didn’t really put our stamp on the game. We didn’t increase the tempo as and when we could and it became a difficult first half but we changed it around in terms of the shape and the second half we done really well to dominate the second half and get the three goals.

“I think class and fitness, I think fitness was massive.  They were very energetic early on, I was thinking there was no way they could keep this up. Thankfully for us they did fade a little bit towards the end.  A few of them were getting cramp, or whether that was game management to slow it down, I’m not sure.  We stuck to the task and the most important thing leaving today is to get through to the next round.”

Weston-super-Mare – bottom of the Vanarama National League South table with two draws from 10 league games – visit Princes Park next Saturday.

“They’re going to be a real tough team to break down because I’ve seen them a couple of games already this year and they’re very young, got a lot of ex-Academy boys.  They play through the thirds and it’s going to be a difficult game.  We have to make sure irrelevant of their league position that we’re physically and mentally prepared right. 

“We need to build on this now, we’re three unbeaten, which is a positive and we need to now carry on and kick on in the league.”

Dartford are now a couple of wins from reaching the First Round of The FA Cup, having reached that stage an impressive five times since 2010.

“The FA Cup is massive not only for the players, the management team and everybody at the club and the fans and it was vitally, vitally important that we got through today, it really was,” revealed Coyle, who has banked the club £9,000 in prize money.

“We tried to get the message across to the players. I know they understand but it’s huge, it really, really is and I’m just really pleased I’m going away today, first half was nowhere near, second half, brilliant character, good quality and the subs have come on and made a real difference.”

AFC Uckfield Town: Louis Rogers, Ryan Welch, Matt Barbosa, Richie Welch, Calum Sheriff, Steve Hickman, Dee Okojie (Sam Cooper 72), Matt McLean, Callum Smith, Matt Black (Shaun Loft 76), Regan Smith (Bright Temba 60).
Subs: Craig Norman, Essa Janneh, Anthony Storey, Ellis Cormack

Goal: Callum Smith 43

Booked: Callum Smith 74, Matt McLean 80

Dartford: Deren Ibrahim, Kenneth Yao, Mark Onyemah, Chez Isaac, Ronnie Vint, Tom Bonner, Ben Greenhalgh, Lee Noble (Tom Murphy 71), Delano Sam-Yorke (Jamie Philpott 46), Elliot Bradbrook, Charlie Sheringham.
Subs: Kudus Oyenuga, Ryan Nicholls, Simon Mensah, Kevin Fulton

Goals: Tom Murphy 81, Charlie Sheringham 86, Elliot Bradbrook 90

Booked: Kenneth Yao 70

Attendance: 500
Referee: Mr Alex Blake (Waterlooville, Hampshire)
Assistants: Ms Kirsty Dowle (Ashford) & Mr Daniel D’Urso (Burgess Hill, West Sussex)