The rangers ESFL team travelled to Crowhurst this week looking to make it five wins from five in all competitions. Rangers made two changes to the starting XI from last weeks 11-0 win against The Unicorn with Aaron Filsell making his first start for the club after coming on as a substitute in Bognor and Matt Wheeler also being promoted from the substitutes bench after making a big impact last time out. This saw a slight reshuffle of the starting line up with Filsell slotting in at centre half in place of the injured Mike Pickard and Wheeler coming in for the unavailable Connor Sullivan. The rangers bench consisted of the long lost Dan Chapman, goal machine Jamie Strong and debutant Jamie Baker-Beall.
The pitch was in tip top condition with not even the intermittent downpours able to disturb what will probably be the best pitch rangers will play on all season. From the kick off it was apparent that the home side were keen to press the rangers back line when in possession. Rangers did their best to use the full width of there pitch and in the main looked comfortable but at times were their own worst enemy with sloppy passes at key times. That being said, rangers had two glorious chances to take the lead in the opening exchanges. The rangers front line pressed the Crowhurst defence just at the right time, and after wining possession of the ball, Hardie was slotted in down the right flank. Unfortunately Hardie pulled his shot past the back post much to the relief of the he home keeper. Moments later, after Wheeler and Hardie had swapped wings, rangers were left frustrated again. Hardie broke down the left and pulled the ball back across goal. An initial shot was well blocked by a defender but the ball fell to Wheeler who could only fire straight at the keeper who made a desperate stop with his legs yo keep the scores level.
Midway through the first half rangers took the lead. More excellent pressing at the right time saw rangers earn a corner which Wilkes floated in. Powerful Belgian Tony Derese rose the highest and thumped home an unstoppable header from 8 yards. 1-0 rangers. Six minutes later and nearly a carbon copy. Another corner from Wilkes with Derese rising the highest but this time his header flashed over the bar.
Rangers weren't having it all their own way though, and this was due to a combination of high energy pressing from the home side combined with poor rangers passing. On the half hour, a long ball saw Bell come out of his area which saw the Crowhurst striker get to the ball first. Bell had forced the striker wide before the rangers defence recovered with the ball eventually being smuggled away to safety with Bell scrambling back to his goal line. But six minutes before the break, Crowhurst were level. A corner from the rangers left saw a Crowhurst head win the ball, but the ball ballooned up on the air. The ball took an age to come down, and with no rangers defender challenging, the Crowhurst midfielder headed the ball into the rangers net with ease. A poor, poor goal to concede. 1-1 at half time.
Rangers had been under par and it's fair to say every player knew that was the case. Words were had at half time, surely things would improve?
Second half and rangers continued to look threatening especially down the flanks, and when Wilkes and Jesson linked with the wide players. Much of this good play was in the middle third of the pitch with end product and the lack of willingness to shoot in the final third an ever increasing frustration for the red and blacks. At the other end, Crowhurst had some half chances which was mainly due to rangers playing themselves into trouble but Bell was usually on hand to sweep up when necessary.
Wheeler in particular was getting joy down the left with two bursts and cut backs from the touchline almost converted by Wlikes and Hardie which the home keeper was equal to on both occasions. Two changes were then made in quick succession with top scorer Strong replacing Jesson and Dan Chapman replacing Filsell with still around half an hour to go. Strong was instructed to shoot on sight up front while Chapman slotted in to centre midfield which saw Derese move to his more familiar centre half role.
Both rangers full backs were getting forward well, especially Barber who was able to overlap Wheeler on numerous occasions. It was in fact Barber that laid down the gauntlet to the rangers strikers, testing the keeper from 25 yards with the keeper saving fairly comfortably. On 75 minutes, Strong showed quite superb vision when he sent a sublime pass on to the run of Hardie. Hardie was through on goal and this looked like it would be the moment rangers regained the lead, but a superb stop from the keeper who had come sprinting from his line left rangers reeling at yet another missed opportunity. This and other missed chances almost cost rangers the game. With ten minutes left on the clock a misplaced Bennett-Tomlin pass, who had been solid until this point, was gifted to the Crowhurst forward. He found his right winger in space who had rushed through one on one with Bell. But like his counterpart at the other end, Bell was quickly off his line to close down the angle and divert the shot to safety.
This saw rangers make their last change with Baker-Beall coming on for his debut for Wilkes who had put a decent shift in all afternoon. The last ten minutes, both teams looked nervous but it was rangers who were trying to win the game with the home side relying on counter attacks which at times looked dangerous due to the game now becoming wide open. With two minutes left to go, rangers got out of jail. Green made a burst down the rangers right, and after his initial cross was deflected into the air by the covering sent half, Green was first to the ball when it dropped inside the penalty area. Greens touch was excellent which saw the centre half come rushing in with a very rash challenge which saw the referee point to the spot with the Crowhurst man totting up a yellow card for his troubles. Some would say he was lucky not to have been booked twice over before this point. Strong stepped up and calmly slotted the penalty past the keeper who had literally no chance, the penalty finding its way into the bottom corner. 2-1 rangers.
Rangers held on for a less than convincing victory, but to be so below par and still come away with three points is a great tribute to the team - a win's a win, and on chanced created rangers probably deserved the win more than the home side who were of course unlucky not to come away without at least a point. Without Bell's save at the end, rangers could of course have lost the game. The Crowhurst keeper was undoubtedly the home teams man of the match which may well speak volumes but the rangers MOM was awarded to Luke "Bertie" Barber who was excellent all afternoon defensively and offensively.
This win sees rangers top the division (when other results are expunged from the league) and with the next league game now four weeks away due to three consecutive weeks of cup duty, rangers will surely have some catching up to do in mid November. Next week sees the red and blacks start their defence of the Eastbourne FA Junior Cup with a home tie against Herstmonceux I. Rangers have already come out on top against 'Ceux in the league this season with a 5-0 victory but rangers opponents have since strengthened so this will be a very, very tight cup game.
2.30pm kick off at the sports park, see you all there.
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...