After weeks without a competitive game, rangers were pleased when the weather held off just enough to ensure their league cup quarter final against Little Chelsea got the nod, albeit at Old Town Rec rather than the sports park. With Sean Hardie cup tied, Dan Chapman ill, Jules Waters working and long term injury victim Glen Noble still on the treatment table, the management team had 14 squad members available for the game. The ever dependable Martin Bell took the gloves, and in front of him with the task of keeping Little Chelsea at bay were Rob Anderson, Mike Pickard, Dave Bennett-Tomlin and Ricky Curran. In midfield rangers opted for Dan Harmer and Lee Chapman while on the flanks Chris Ward and Josh Kyte got the nod. Rangers deployed a front two for the game with Ben Jesson playing just behind Connor Sullivan with Mark Hymans, Tom Tribe, Grant Smith on the rangers bench.
Rangers started the better of the two sides with the pace and link up play of Jesson, Sullivan and Kyte in particular too much for the Chelsea defence to handle in the opening 20 minutes. The away keeper did well to save twice from Kyte in the opening exchanges which ultimately kept Little Chelsea in the game. A rasping Sullivan effort was also tipped over from the Chelsea number one on the half hour when he looked well and truly beaten.
Little Chelsea on the other hand, had different tactics to rangers by looking to play in their pace man up front at the earliest available opportunity from distance. Both Little Chelsea strikers were proving difficult to mark for differing reasons - one for his clever movement off the shoulder of the last man, and the other who was dropping in deep to pick up the ball in the hole. That being said, rangers restricted Little Chelsea to efforts from long range and any efforts closer to the rangers goal saw bodies thrown on the line to protect keeper Bell who didn't have a save to make all half. This was mainly due to good rangers defending, with covering tackles from Anderson and Pickard snuffling out the pacey Chelsea striker when he could have found himself bearing down on the rangers goal on two occasions.
Harmer and Chapman in the rangers midfield were solid throughout the first half while further up the field Jesson's free role seemed to cause continuous problems for the opposition. Upon the half time whistle, rangers came in knowing that they should gave been at least two goals to the good, but with the pattern of the season also following suit in this game, rangers had not capitalised on the good opportunities they had created for themselves.
The second half saw rangers chances on goal dry up a little with both teams clearly struggling with the stickiness of the pitch while Jesson was already struggling with a reoccurring niggling injury. Rangers best chances of the second half came down the rangers right. Little Chelsea half cleared a rangers corner which the red and blacks quickly fed out to Anderson the right flank. His cross found Ward in acres of space eight yards out but Wards header was directed across the box rather than on goal which the defence gratefully cleared. A big chance.....
Rangers were clearly frustrating the opposition who were used to having it all their own way so far this season with just one league defeat all season. This frustration saw Harmer on the end of a scything challenge which saw the Little Chelsea number four booked which could have seen the red card come out on another day. To make matters worse for rangers, the number four then showed complete petulance when a free kick was awarded against him soon after, when he thumped the ball away in frustration. A clear incident of dissent which appeared to be missed by the man on the middle.
Little Chelsea soon changed to a 4-3-3 which game rangers even more space on the wings. This saw Anderson at right back see more of the he ball in an attacking sense while Kyte on the left continued to have more joy without reward. A defence splitting ball from Chapman found Kyte in the channel who looked to have got away from the entire Chelsea defence only for a covering centre half to challenge the little man when he was about to pull the trigger.
At the other end, Pickard and in particular Benentt-Tomlin were on hand to mop up almost every long ball into the bath of the Little Chelsea pace man who must have been frustrated with the lack of service to his feet. With the teams deadlocked, the game went to extra time. Both teams clearly had their strengths, rangers with their pace and passing game and Little Chelsea showing just a little more know-how in key areas of the pitch.
Both teams were now really feeling the pinch of the lack of competitive football combined with the heaviness of the pitch with several needing treatment for cramp. The first half of extra time didn't see any chances of note and at half time, cramp victim Anderson was replaced by Tribe. The pivotal moment of the game came with four minutes of extra time to go when it looked like Little Chelsea had seemingly settled for penalties. An effort from inside the rangers box saw skipper Bennett-Tomilin charge the shot down from point blank range. The ball appeared to strike the hand of the rangers man which was protecting his chest, but the referee was in no doubt.... Penalty.
Despite rangers protests, the penalty stood which was stuck high past Bell. 0-1. Chapman found himself in the book for dissent, but as ever there was time for one more rangers chance. Rangers were awarded a freekick on the left when Jesson was cynically up-ended which saw rangers fill the box. Sullivan's delivery found Pickard at the back post who marginally failed to make the contact needed to hit the target and test the keeper. Agonising.....
With both teams dead on their feet, Chelsea used their experience to keep the ball for the remaining minutes to see out the game, 1-0. Although cruel in many ways, rangers need to take their chances during games and also need to sharpen up when it comes to decision making on the pitch. That being said, this was an exceptional performance which every ranger should be proud of. The MOM was between the two rangers centre backs who were exceptional throughout, with Bennett-Tomlin just shading out Pickard.
Next week sees rangers take on bogey team Eastbourne Athletic in the Eastbourne Junior Cup quarter final, rangers only chance of silverware this season. A similar performance will be required to make it though to the semi finals.
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...