Eastbourne Rangers opening day fixture of 2016/17 was a tough away game at established ESFL Premier Division side Ore Athletic. With this being Rangers first game at intermediate level, this was indeed a historic day for the club who started off in ESFL division 7 just six years ago.
Rangers handed competitive debuts to a host of players with Ben Barnett, Ben Courtnage, Jacob Adalm, and Tony Russell all making the starting XI with fellow debutants Shaun Evans and Kent Meier having to make do with a place on the bench. Keeper Andy Albon also made his debut for the ESFL team after spending all of last season with the clubs MSFL team.
After a torrid preseason with availability of players very poor, it maybe wasn't a surprise that it took Rangers twenty minutes to settle into the game. Ore were very organised but their 4-3-3 formation offered them little outlet on the wings. This combined with being very direct with long throws and high balls into the box, Rangers were able to keep the home side at bay with Albon very commanding between the sticks, claiming every high ball that was directed at him.
Rangers looked dangerous on both flanks with Dylan Nanuck and Courtnage looking a threat, with the former whistling a ball across the Athletic box which was just cut out by a covering defender. The closest Rangers came to opening the scoring was from a Carl Kenward free-kick with the skippers effort being tipped round the post for a corner kick.
Despite being overloaded numbers wise in central midfield, Rangers were rarely outnumbered due tactical instruction before the game, and also in no small part to the energy of Barnett and Sean Hardie who both had excellent games in the engine room. The Rangers back four were marshalled well by Kenward with Lee Chapman and Brad Meredith having solid games at full back while Russell, despite carrying a knock, was exceptional at the heart of the Rangers back line. Meanwhile, Adlam looked lively up front with Jamie Strong pulling the strings just behind.
At the interval, the score remained goalless and Rangers were happy after slowly working themselves into the game. The second half certainly saw more goalmouth incident and this was seen by representatives from Sidley United and Old Hastonians as an enjoyable game for the neutral.
The first minor incident of the half saw Adlam spin his man just inside the Ore half which saw the experienced centre half haul him down, fortunately not receiving a booking. This eventually saw the veteran defender move to a familiar role up front where he was used as a target man (in the main) for well rehearsed long balls and throws.
Rangers looked the more likely to open the scoring with efforts zipping past the Ore goal, but Ore did have a couple of half chances of their own with Meredith almost diverting a cross into his own net and Albon having to sweep up after a below par goal kick put himself into trouble. Barnett then found himself in the book for a mistimed (and high) tackle which saw the home side unsportingly calling for a red card. Fortunately for Rangers the referee had branded a yellow card within seconds of the challenge bring made, so the Ore protests were to no avail.
Rangers build up play was now in full flow but the premier league new boys were still lacking slightly in front of goal. In the closing stages Chapman and Adlam were replaced by Meier and Evans with both teams now looking stretched. An Ore player then found himself in the book for dissent and was quickly substituted, only for the home player to receive a second booking after continuing his protests off the pitch.
In the last ten minutes, quick feet by Strong in the Ore six yard box saw him create space for a snap shot but the Ore keeper was on hand to beat the ball away. Moments later, Strong fired a thirty yard free-kick marginally over the bar which would have had the keeper well beaten. But both defences stayed resolute despite Rangers sharing the game slightly in the attacking third.
Overall this was a pleasing result especially in light of who was unavailable to take part in the game.
With all the debutants excellent, the stand out player for Rangers was Tony Russell who didn't put a foot wrong at the back and he was named the Old Dave's Gourmet Burger and Co. Man of the Match.
An excellent start for Rangers and something to build on for the next game when Battle Baptists are welcomed to the sports park 3G.
Member since: 25th July 2013
Eastbourne Rangers were formed in May 2009 and after a seasons worth of consolidation, we haven't looked back since. Four league consecutive titles in five years (which have seen the club promoted SIX...