Rangers vital six pointer against Crowhurst was eagerly anticipated by all after an excellent performance away to Wadhurst 7 days previous saw confidence at a high. Rangers were without the influential Chapman brothers, as Dan had to act as chaperone for older brother Lee on his stag weekend away, while Mark Hymans was still struggling with various niggles which saw him join long term injury victim Glen Nobel on the treatment table. A training injury to Jules Waters meant rangers were a tad light in centre midfield with matchday skipper Dan Harmer and Rob Anderson asked to fill the void. A return to the squad for Josh Kyte saw the little man given starters orders on the left wing while Chris Ward was asked to occupy his usual right flank. The energetic Connor Sullivan and Ben Jesson were looking to provide the firepower up front, while at the other end, Martin Bell was hoping to keep a clean sheet between the sticks. Hoping to help him with this task was debutant Tony Derese who partnered Mike Pickard at centre half while Steve Green and Ricky Curran were deployed at right and left back respectively. The rangers bench was made up of Dave Bennett-Tomlin, Sean Hardie and Jamie Strong.
Despite a slow opening minute or so from rangers, with passes going astray, the red and blacks had a glorious chance to settle any nerves after just 2 minutes. A penetrating run from Sullivan down the rangers right hand side saw him pick out Jesson 8 yards out. A decent first touch by Jesson, with his back to goal, looked to have been enough to set rangers on their way but Jesson fired his shot too close to the keeper who parried the ball away to safety.
Crowhurst looked very dangerous on the break, with direct balls into the rangers defensive channels causing problems. A shot from the edge of the box, after a cut back from a home winger, saw Bell at his best when he palmed a shot destined for the bottom corner around the post. Moments later, rangers were let off the hook when a Crowhurst striker had what seemed like an age to tee up a shot at Bell, without anybody applying pressure to the ball. Fortunately, his shot was wayward and ballooned over the bar. Rangers created further chances throughout the first half with Ward shooting just wide from inside the box, Harmer heading marginally over from a rangers corner and Kyte shooting at the keeper from a tight angle.
Rangers suffered a killer blow on 24 minutes when a cross from the rangers right found the only Crowhurst player in the rangers box (with three rangers defenders around him) with the home striker acrobatically finishing into the rangers net, leaving Bell with no chance. This was frustrating as rangers had offered slightly more in the final third but had failed to take their chances, a lot of which cannot be remembered for the sake of this report. Green was unable to get forward from full back due to Crowhurst playing 3 or 4 players very high up the pitch but Kyte, Jesson and Sullivan always looked a threat on the front foot with the ball at their feet. Anderson and Harmer found themselves up against two very solid centre midfielders which saw the pair run themselves into the ground.
Half time soon came around, and the attitude of some players coming off the pitch showed that they really cared about the rangers cause. The key words from the management team was not to panic as there was still plenty of time to go.
The second half was fairly similar to that of the first. Rangers offered more going forward, and were always a threat, but the final ball and decision making in the final third wasn’t quite as it should be. The home side continued to play on the break with some direct football, with the Crowhurst number 7 posing a particular problem for Curran at left back. On the opposite flank, Green put in several last ditch tackles to thwart Crowhurst advancing any closer to the rangers goal. Further chances fell to rangers with Ward again firing wide from close range after a superb first touch set up the chance while much endeavour from Kyte down the rangers left often saw chances go begging when the ball was cut back from the touchline.
It was from the opposite flank that rangers levelled the scores. Neat play from rangers saw Ward break the Crowhurst defensive line with his cross finding Sullivan in the middle, who finished superbly into the back of the net. 1-1, and very much game on.
Despite setting up the rangers goal, Ward was then (some would say cruelly) sacrificed which saw Strong, a proven goal scorer, enter the fray which saw Jesson reluctantly move out to the right wing. This change saw Crowhurst severely on the back foot with Jesson seemingly beating the left back more often than not, either with individual skill or after good link up play with Strong. Rangers continued to press the home side and looked more hungry for the win with joy down both flanks providing half chances. The introduction of Strong saw rangers range of passing increase with Kyte and Jesson given some delightful balls to receive, allowing them to have more time to run at their respective full backs. With the game becoming more stretched, Green was also finding some joy with some bursting runs from full back. With rangers applying further pressure, that all important second goal nearly came with fourteen minutes left on the clock. A ball was whipped dangerously in from Strong on the rangers right from his unfavoured left boot. The trajectory of the cross saw the keeper rooted to his line while a flurry of bodies were eluded, with Sullivan providing the slightest of touches only to see the ball rebound of the foot of the post. So close.
With 10 minutes to go, Harmer was replaced by Hardie while shortly after, Bennett-Tomlin gave Anderson a well earner breather. Bennett-Tomlin’s first contribution was to bring down a Crowhurst player on route to goal but fortunately the referee didn’t fancy the paperwork of a booking. In the dying moments of the game, rangers were still pushing for that all important winner. Kyte picked up the ball down the left and picked out Strong, completely free at the back post, but Strong’s header went agonisingly over the bar hitting the supporting stanchion much to the frustration of the rangers supporters. Massive chance…..
The final whistle followed shortly after with rangers again reflecting on plenty of missed chances which ultimately cost them the game. The MOM was awarded to Sullivan with special mentions to Harmer and Anderson who put in a great shift in the middle of the park.
Two points dropped, or a point gained? Time will tell but this solitary point has seen rangers climb two places in the league table. Next up, it’s a dress rehearsal for the big cup final as rangers take on league leaders Little Chelsea, a Wednesday evening kick off at the sports park, 6.15pm.
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...