With the conditions set fair and use of Uckfield Town’s 1st team pitch granted by the hosts, the Slade took to the field looking for the vital 3 points to maintain their push at the top of the table. With Rich Smith back between the sticks after resting some sore ribs (oh and being in possession of an England v France 6 Nations ticket!), Jack Larkham, the pub landlord, making a return at left back and Isaac Cook, Nathans better looking brother, given his first start for the front team. A slight change to the overall system saw a midfield three of Mad Dog, Psycho and Petal linking up through the middle, with wide players Isaac and JB given a more attacking licence.
From the first whistle the visitors were well and truly on the front foot, excellent interchanging through the middle was paving the way for a number of attacks early on with the Uckfield keeper showing good handling to prevent any damage to the score board. With Larkham advancing well on the left side, Isaac proving a threat with his pace in behind, and some of the best link up play we’ve seen this year from Einstein and the Kindle down the right, the signs were good and the breakthrough inevitable.
After a number of half chances and near misses went begging, it was a short corner that finally provided the break through, a well worked routine seeing Nathan advance unopposed into the Uckfield penalty area and firing a low cross along the six yard box, with the keeper unable to react it was left for the unwitting centre half to clear his lines, unfortunately for him, he could only clear his own keeper and found the back of the net with some aplomb. 1-0.
At this point, Uckfield retreated even further into their shells, that, coupled with some excellent attacking play gave the feeling that it would not be too long until the lead was doubled. Yet, further half chances came and went, Isaac coming close to adding to his 9 second team goals and the Boff narrowly missing out on his own personal golden boot crusade. A rare foray into our half saw the Uckfield striker gifted with possibly the best chance of the game to date, the ball crossed in from our left eventually found his right foot, and while a decent connection was made his effort could only find the grateful arms of the underworked Rich Smith (I believe this was his only real genuine save!).
This only served to spark the visitors back into life, with the ball being played well from the back into the midfield, and with Marc Sutton more Crufts Prize Breed winner than Mad Dog, the ball was moving quickly and accurately into the feet of Nathan “psycho” Cook, who was able to slice the hosts open at will, Sean “Petal” Trend also blossoming in a role with slightly more freedom. It was this freedom that finally secured the second goal, collecting a Cook pass, driving on from the centre and rolling the ball to Karl Boffey who found a yard of space on the edge of the box, collected the ball with an immaculate first touch before finally delivering a composed and competent finish to double the lead. 2-0.
This seemed to change little to the flow of the game, with the hosts still penned back deep in their half, the movement from the midfield and the wide areas proving too much for their less mobile opposite numbers, goals looked like they could come by the bucket load. A third shortly followed the second. Again, Trend finding space in front of their back line, unleashed a……..pea rolling, daisy cutting, brut of a shot, that the keeper could only parry out in front of him. With the big man Boff sniffing around the box as eagerly as a cop dog in a busy Mexican airport, there was only one outcome as he slotted home into the empty net. 3-0.
Almost as quickly as 2 became 3, 3 became 4. The industrious Larkham playing a key role, combining well down the left with Nathan and Sean, before digging out a peach of a cross for the Boff to throw his head at, he did just that, but a rather ugly connection saw the ball loop up and over the keeper towards the far corner, with the keeper back peddling and the ball slowly dropping it was anyone’s guess as to what was going to happen next. The man with the gloves managed to find himself in a tussle with his own post, he lost, the ball hit the bar and dropped invitingly into the six yard box, the big man once again showing those cop dog attributes, as he was first out of the traps to tap home for his hat-trick. 4-0.
That brought to an end a very satisfying first half. With the Jaffa cakes and oranges taken pitch side, the message was clear and simple, more of the same, a little more ruthless and the key point being don’t get complacent. It was of little surprise that the home team came out with a little more fight, it’s hard to imagine that their players would of got anything less than a full on roasting. The first 15 minutes of the second period were played out a little more evenly, but it was clear which team still possessed the greater threat.
Further “pretty” football continued albeit a little more sporadic than the first period, it was little more than an annoyance that the goal tally had yet to be added to. It was not until the final 20-25 minutes that the second half sprung into life as again the visitors sensed the kill and with this produced the goal of the game, and from a team point of view a goal of the season contender. With the ball being rolled out to Matt Collins, it was worked into midfield and back out to Larkham at left back, a one-two saw the ball back at Larkhams feet on the half way line, a triangle of short 5 yard passes finally found, super sub, Veenaye Munsuram free down the left, his first time cross picked out an unmarked Boffey, who, unselfishly, headed back across goal to the on-rushing Nathan Cook, he controlled it on his chest and calmly slotted home from 6 yards to cap off an excellent spell of possession, movement and skill. 5-0.
With Uckfield Towns chins now well and truly on the canvas, the knock out finish was there for the taking. Number 6 came with 80 minutes on the clock, a well delivered corner from John Boddy was headed towards goal by the lively Sean Trend, a lack of direction gave the keeper a chance to block but the ever alert Veenaye was right on the money to tap in and continue his free scoring season, not since Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has a foreign import had such a pivotal influence from the bench. 6-0.
All that was left was to snub out any rare counter from the hosts, maintain an even rarer clean sheet and maybe just find the cherry to put on top of the icing on top of the cake. It was the Mauritian Magician that obliged, aided in no small part by the excellent John Boddy, who showed signs through out of a much craved return to form. His raking 40 yard through ball from an inside right position drifted inch perfectly over the despairing leap of the Uckfield centre half. There was still much for the Magician to do, but a masterful first touch on his chest paved the way for him to bear down on goal, coolly side step the keeper and stroke home his second and Slades seventh. Heaven. 7-0.
I could easily give a special mention to all players today, but in particular, Jack Larkham, on his return was faultless in his performance and offered an excellent outlet to both defence and midfield. JB and Matt Collins showing signs of what could be a very fruitful partnership down the right. The midfield three of Sean, Marc and Nathan, proving defensively solid, and a constant threat going forward. Rich, Rich and Kev, assured and dominant at the back organising all around them. Isaac, putting in a promising and lively debut in an unaccustomed wider role. A hat-trick for the big man and a brace off the bench for Veenaye. Also, a thank you to Whittaker, who stepped in last minute, and once again showed not only his own ability but also the strength in depth displayed in the squad. Oopps, I mentioned everyone, sorry. Although, the third sub used was as useful as a chocolate fire guard!!! All that said, there can only be one man of the match, and while hard to call, especially when there’s a man picking up a hat-trick, it has to go to Nathan Cook, an assured and complete performance, capped off with a beauty of a goal.
It would be easy to get carried away with the score line and the performance, and to a degree we certainly should, what was pleasing most of all was the way in which our goals were scored, almost all started from excellent moves with several players involved. It’s obvious that given a good size and quality of pitch we are certainly capable of some exceptional play. Next week sees the visit of high flying Peacehaven and with out doubt a far stiffer task, we all know what happened the last time we met, but while, inevitably and unavoidably, revenge will be high on the agenda, the 3 points will be all that matters come the final whistle.
Two league games ago we spoke about 9 games left and 9 wins needed. We’ve ticked off 2 of them, so 7 games, 7 wins, who’s up for it??
Smith, Collins, Larkham, Balcombe, Scott, Trend (cpt), Sutton, Cook (N) x1, MOM, Boddy, Cook (I), Boffey x3, SUBS: Munsuram x2, Whittaker, Norris.