Rangers approached their last league game of there season knowing full well that a win would secure division two football for next year. Ninfield had faint hopes of avoiding the drop themselves, with only a win likely to give them any chance of staying up. With only two players named on the Ninfield team sheet that played in the reverse (which was a 7-0 win for rangers), it was clear the opponents has reinforced their side from members of their first XI.
The rangers management team elected to make changes to the side which won 6-2 at Herstmonceux, with some enforced changes too which included Steve Green missing out thorough injury and brothers Dan and Lee Chapman at the latters wedding. With rangers having another game just 48 hours laters, the management team opted for a bench that was made up of skipper Dave Bennett-Tomlin, Sean Hardie, Ben Jesson and Dan Harmer. The starting XI saw now fewer than six changes from the win at Herstmonceux, but the ever present Martin Bell took the gloves for the twentieth league game of the season. Tom Tribe came in for the injured Green while Tony Derese was partnered by skipper of the day, Mike Pickard. Ricky Curran maintained his place at left back while Chris Ward and Josh Kyte earned recalls to the starting line up on the rangers wings. Jules Waters and Rob Anderson were tasked with manning the central midfield area while Connor Sullivan joined the inform Jamie Strong up front.
Despite the distraction of an imminent cup final, it was made clear to the squad that everyone was still playing for their places. Rangers got off to a perfect start after 23 minutes when Sullivan pulled the ball back to Strong in the Ninfield area who made no mistake, scoring his first header in five years. Strong had further chances to extend rangers lead but the rangers man put two half chances over the Ninfield bar. At the other end, Bell made an excellent save after a shot from distance but unfortunately the rangers stopper clattered his head against the post in the process which required treatment.
Ten minutes before the break, the Ninfield centre half was very lucky not to be booked when he upended Sullivan 25 yards out (a county mile away from the ball), with the referee strangely seeing a ticking off for the offender adequate. From the resulting free-kick, Strong whistled his effort just past the top corner, much to the relief of the away keeper. Rangers held on to the narrow lead until half time where the rangers players were warned that the opposition would be looking to put things right into e second half....
From the restart, rangers were not at the races with Ninfield really taking the game to the red and blacks. Ninfield had the ball in the back of the rangers net twice in the opening twenty minutes of the half, but both were correctly ruled out, firstly for offside, and then the first of many fouls on rangers keeper Bell. On the hour, Waters made way for Harmer in the middle of the park.
Ninfield equalised on 68 minutes when a through ball saw the still dazed Bell come off his line only for the Ninfield striker to get a toe on the ball first from a long through ball. 1-1.
Rangers were now under the cosh with the opposition being very direct from their own free kicks all over the pitch, again some of which were gathered by Bell who was then cruelly smashed to the ground by various Ninfield players. On 74 minutes, disaster struck when a driven Ninfield corner was met by the "hungrier" Ninfield centre half to make the score 2-1.
Final changes for rangers saw Hardie replace Kyte and Jesson replace Sullivan, which added a little more impetus up front with regards to fresh legs. Hardie made a run down the left within a few minutes of his introduction and seemed to be deliberately tripped. But with the rangers man trying (and succeeding) to stay on his feet, the referee failed to give rangers a free-kick in a very good position. More frustrating was the fact that rangers had lost possession of the ball due to the nature of the foul.
Jesson looked dangerous in the final third finding himself one on one against a Ninfield defender in the area on several occasions, however reinforcements soon arrived to snuff out the danger. On one occasion Jesson looked to have been fouled in the area but he referee waived away the claims from the rangers players.
The game finished 2-1 and in simple terms, rangers didn't show up in the second half with the opposition showing more fight and determination to secure a much needed win. Rangers currently sit third bottom in the league with Crowhurst one place behind them with two games in hand against two of the top teams in the league. It's now out of rangers hands, which is of course disappointing.
Rangers now turn their attention to Monday nights cup final against Little Chelsea, a team that rangers have already lost to three times this season. Rangers go into the game as underdogs. And everyone loves an underdog.
7.30 kick off at The Oval, Eastbourne United.
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...