The Rangers ESFL team were in cup action this week and found themselves up against unbeaten, table-topping premier division side Battle Baptists in the second round of the Birchwood Group Challenge Cup. As seems to be the norm these days rangers had several players unavailable for varying reasons which saw Luke Barber answer a late SOS call and a return from retirement. Barber slotted straight into centre half next to Rory Newby who had also returned to the squad after missing last weeks 7-1 mauling of Sovereign Saints, with Barber and Newby accompanied by Steve Green and Carl Kenward at right and left back respectively while Martin Bell took the gloves. Tony Derese and Lee Chapman also returned to the starting XI joining rangers skipper Ben Jesson in a midfield trio while rangers also welcomed promising MSFL player Dylan Nanuck to the side who impressed for the rangers MSFL team last week as a half time substitute. Nanuck took up the left wing berth while Matt Wheeler occupied the right hand side. Sean Hardie was tasked with leading the line on his own, while rangers had Brad Meredith and Luke Regan on the bench.
Baptists shaded the early exchanges and rangers had keeper Martin Bell to thank very early on saving expertly when the home striker was one on one, with covering rangers defenders scrambling the ball to safety. Baptists made their early pressure tell in the sixth minute after a freekick was swung in from the rangers right which saw a Battle striker power home a well timed header past Bell in the rangers goal…. A very disappointing goal to concede.
Rangers then began to come more into the game with the home side maybe taking their foot of the gas a little. Rangers began to dominate in midfield with Chapman and Derese breaking up play superbly while Jesson looked to keep the ball on the move, probing away at the Battle defence. Chapman had a well directed shot tipped around the post by the home keeper and Hardie also shot over the bar after winning the ball from a defender on the edge of the area. Rangers were pressing well with the Battle back four being made to feel uncomfortable on the ball, and another chance fell to rangers when Nanuck pickpocket the Battle right back. Nanuck drove into the penalty area which saw two defenders come across, leaving Wheeler unmarked at the back post. But at the crucial time Nanuck’s pass was cut out by a thankful Battle centre half, leaving Wheeler and rangers frustrated.
Half an hour in, rangers deservedly equalised. A quick throw from Hardie found Derese in the box who headed the ball on at the near post. His flick found an unmarked Chapman just six yards out with the rangers man powering a downward header past the keeper which levelled the score, richly deserved by battling rangers.
At half time all the talk was about maintaining focus and sticking to the task ahead and executing the pre-match game plan.
Early in the second half both sides started to felt each other out, and with the Battle wingers having now swapped wings, this was indeed food for thought – in particular for Kenward as Green had been giving a very hard time in the first period by the Battle number 7. Rangers also made a tweak of their own with Nanuck and Hardie swapping positions with the hope that the pace of Nanuck would give the Battle back four something more to think about.
Twelve minutes in and rangers took the lead with a breathtaking goal. Hardie found Nanuck on the left just outside the Battle area. Nanucks first time ball found Jesson who immediately picked out a run from Chapman deep inside the penalty area. Hardie, who had continued his run after setting up the attack, latched on to a first time header / knock down from Chapman, and dispatched the ball past the home keeper to give rangers a well earned lead. 2-1.
With tired bodies now very prominent, two changes were made in quick succession with Regan replacing Nanuck up front in a straight swap while Meredith replaced Derese which saw a slight reshuffle in the rangers ranks. Rangers now had half an hour to weather the storm but also had a few chances to extend their lead further. Regan was denied twice, first by a last ditch tackle from a covering defender preventing the rangers substitute getting his shot away, and the second a lofted effort which went just over the bar when the keeper was caught off his line. The fresh legs of Meredith down the right also made an impact, Meredith bursting into the penalty area with his cross also being cut out by a covering defender.
Rangers continued to dig deep all over the pitch with any rare breakaways were mopped up by the impressive Barber who also covered his full backs superbly. The last 10 minutes saw Battle throw everything at rangers with the home side often having what seemed a line of five players up front waiting for any flick ons from crosses and freekicks. But rangers were strong, rangers held on and when the final whistle eventually blew it was clear that this rangers side had come of age by showing they can dig deep for one another, executing a specific game plan to win them the game.
All thirteen players played their part in the game which made awarding an MOM very difficult. Chapman battled through the whole 90 minutes (despite picking up a knock after just 2 minutes) and contributed with a goal and an assist as well as his usual workrate and guile in midfield. The back four were solid, and with Bell rarely troubled, much of this was down to Barber who had an exceptional game at centre half. To complete 90 minutes in a game of this magnitude in the manner he did (after returning from retirement) meant that the Seaside Café MOM was indeed awarded to Luke Barber. A special mention also to Meredith, Regan and Nanuck who all played their part in this victory after stepping up from the MSFL team, each one contributing superbly.
The next round sees rangers face Peche Hill Select who are unbeaten in the ESFL Premier League and many peoples top tip to win the league title. This will be a huge test for rangers and should hopefully be a game of high quality.
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...