After a tough start to the season, Rangers were hoping for a change in fortunes as they looked to get their first win of the campaign from a home clash against Wittersham. The sides had met in the cup the previous season, with the red & blacks losing narrowly on penalties 5-4. Another tight game was expected, with Rangers hoping that some of the luck that had deserted them the last couple of weeks would be on their side this time.Unfortunately the goods of fortune where once more going to be unkind to the home team. With midfield general Julian Waters working, full back extraordinaire Mark Hymans and youngster Tom Tribe away for dirty weekend’s and Conor Middleton still languishing on the treatment table, Rangers were a little short. This meant that there was a late call up for the veteran Italian Andrea Chiesa (aka The Wall). With keeper Martin Bell thankfully recovered from the knock he took the previous week, he was once again able to line up between the sticks. In front of him there was the same back four as the previous week, the only change being that the full backs were swapped round, with Ricky Curran taking up station on the right and Rob Anderson on the left. This left Dan Harmer and Mike Pickard to continue their regular partnership at centre back. The returning Dan Chapman was given the task of anchoring the midfield along with younger brother Lee and club captain Dave Bennett-Tomlin. Last weeks subs Chris Ward and Josh Kyte returned to the starting 11 and were given the task of providing the width on the right and the left respectively. Young hotshot Ben Jesson was again given the difficult task ofploughing a lone furrow up top.
As expected Wittersham started quickly and were putting quite a bit of pressure on Rangers in the first 10 minutes of the game. However they weren’t getting much joy, as the long balls they were trying to play behind the Rangers defence for their dangerous striker to chase were mostly being over hit, and were snaffled by the ever alert Bell in goal. When Wittersham did attempt to run towards the Rangers box with the ball, the back four and Dan Chapman just in front of them stood strong and made the necessary interceptions. Eventually the game settled into a bit of a pattern, with Wittersham having quite a lot of the possession without creating any really clear cut chances, while Rangers where happy to soak up the pressure and hit them on the break. Wittersham were mainly being confined to shots from distance and corners, which were being dealt with reasonably comfortably by Bell and his back four. Rangers were looking especially dangerous down the left wing where the Wittersham defender was struggling to cope with Kyte’s pace. Lee Chapman’s bursts through the midfield towards the opposition box were also giving them problems. On several occasions crude challenges on both Kyte and Chapman when in full flow could have been punished with yellow cards, but the referee seemed to be in a generous mood. Rangers almost opened the scoring on two occasions when balls were played into the box from the flanks leading to a scramble in the 6 yard box, but no one in a red shirt was able to get the final touch to put the ball in the net. Rangers thought they had taken the lead after about 20 minutes, when another ball into the box was fumbled by the Wittersham keeper. He never seemed to gather the ball cleanly, and eventually it fell to the feet of Lee Chapman who gleefully placed it into the back of the net. However the referee judged that the ball had been kicked out of the keepers hands, and despite protests by the Rangers players awarded a free kick to Wittersham. Things were to get worse for the red & blacks who were still smarting over what looked to be a generous decision by the referee when 10 minutes later Wittersham did open the scoring. From a corner Rangers only half cleared the ball, and it fell to their dangerous striker about 15 yards out. With nobody reacting quick enough to get out andclose him down, he had time to bring the ball down and smash it into the top right hand corner of the Rangers net. There was no doubting the clinical nature of the finish, but the red & blacks were kicking themselves for momentarily switching off while defending in their own box. However Rangers soon got over this, as they responded well and got themselves back into the game less than 5 minutes later. The goal came from another break down the left, with Ben Jesson playing a ball down the wing for flying winger Kyte who duly outpaced the defender, picked up the ball and cut inside before finishing low past the keeper into the bottom right hand corner. The game reached half time still deadlocked, and after a pep talk from the gaffer, the red & blacks came out for the 2nd half determined to get the 3 points that were most definitely there for the taking.
The 2nd half started off in a similar pattern to the 1st, with Wittersham seeing quite a lot of the ball, but creating few clear cut chances. Their striker who was the top scorer in the whole league last season was always a threat, so centre backs Harmer & Pickard had to work overtime to try and keep him quiet. Rangers were still looking dangerous on the break, and were searching for the second goal that had eluded them the previous two weeks. They looked odds on to do just that about 15 minutes into the 2nd half, but found themselves on the wrong end of the decisions again. While chasing a through ball down the middle, Lee Chapman out muscled the Wittersham centre backs and found himself through on goal. As he was about to pull the trigger he was bundled over in the box by a blatant push in the back. Everybody waited for the inevitable whistle and award of a penalty from the referee, but he was a long way behind play and didn’t give anything much to the annoyance of the frustrated Rangers players. Shortly afterwards one of the Wittersham players took a spill in the Rangers box and although the contact seemed to be minimal, everybody in red & black looked at the referee nervously. But once again he didn’t give anything much to the relief of the red & blacks, as that would have really been rubbing salt into the wound. Not long afterwards Rangers were to suffer a hammer blowthough, when from a Wittersham corner and under pressure by one of their players Pickard ended up heading the ball into his own net. It would have been a great finish if only it had been at the other end! The goal was a real boost for the opposition, who up to that point hadn’t really looked that likely to find another goal. It seemed that lady luck was determined not to smile on Rangers once again. To their credit the red & blacks looked to respond quickly again, like they had to going a goal down in the first half. Noble & Sullivan were brought on to replace Kyte and Ward on the left and right wings respectively. This did seem to give Rangers a bit more impetus going forward, and Noblealmost made an instant impact when he ran onto a through ball and outpaced the defender but couldn’t find the finish. The roles were reversed now, with Rangers having most of the possession and play, and Wittersham happy to sit back and try to soak up the pressure while looking to get a 3rd goal on the break. The red & blacks were now laying siege to the Wittersham goal, but just couldn’t quite seem to get that stroke of luck that they needed to find another equalising goal. The ball pinged around the Wittersham box on numerous occasions, with nobody in a red shirt quite being able to get the final touch to put the ball into the net. The best chance came from Jesson who brought the ball down superbly on the right hand corner of the 6 yard box, before curling a shot past the beaten keeper. Every Rangers player and supporter were about to celebrate what surely was a deserved 2nd goal, only to end up with their heads in their hands as the ball somehow hit the inside of the post and dribbled along the line before being cleared by a Wittershamplayer. It was at that point that some of the Rangers faithful started to suspect that it wasn’t going to be the red & black’s day again. This was backed up by several dubious offside decisions when Jesson was played through on goal. On one particular occasion Jesson was adamant that he had held his run and looked down the line to make sure his was onside before breaking through. This was backed up by one of the Rangers subs who was warming up directly across the pitch from the Wittersham linesman, and confirmed that Jesson was indeed onside. As a last throw of the dice, with 15 minutes left the gaffer changed to a 4-4-2 formation with Lee Chapman joining Jesson upfront and the big Italian Chiesa coming on for Bennett-Tomlin. This change saw Harmer pushed up into midfield with Dan Chapman, while Chiesa joined Pickard at centre back. Rangers continued to pile on the pressure in search of the goal that would at least secure the draw that they deserved. With Chiesa & Pickard mopping up any Wittersham breaks, most of the play was taking place in the opposition half. But lady luck continued to spurn the red & blacks, as they were unable to put the finishing touch to the series of half chances they created. Cue a couple of goal mouth scrambles with no end result, along with several last ditch blocks and clearances by Wittersham players. With the clock winding down to the final minutes of the game, it looked like Rangers might still get their just rewards from the game, when Lee Chapman created some space for himself in the box about 10 yards from goal. However the usually clinical Chapman somehow managed to spurn the chance. With the final whistle going shortly afterwards a very despondent and frustrated Rangers team had to face up to another tough loss, and what was now the longest losing streak in Rangers history.
The loss was even harder to take due to the fact that as with the previous two weeks, the red & blacks had deserved more out of the game. Even the referee after the game commented on the fact that a draw would have been a fair result. The Rangers players and management team were left once again to reflect on what might have been had they had a little bit of the luck which has seemed to desert them over the last few weeks.Things like what seemed to be a perfectly good goal being disallowed, a blatant penalty not being given, a freakish own goal, and the ball hitting the inside of the post and rolling along the line when more times than not it would have rebounded into the goal, all came to mind when thinking about what could have been had fortune favoured the brave. But at the same time it is also true that you create your own luck to a certain extent, and there is no doubt that as a team our finishing needs to be sharper, and we need to take more of the chances that we are creating. There are certain things that can’t be controlled, like a referee not giving us the decisions we think we should have had, but improving our finishing is something that is mostly definitely in our hands. There is an old adage that strength comes through adversity, and every member of the club has now got to try and prove that this saying is correct. We need to try and keep our heads up, stay positive, stick together and keep working hard in training. The focus has to be on making sure we get that first win as soon as possible. The margins by which the previous 3 games have been lost are so fine, that it surely won’t take much for things to turn in our favour. We just have to keep believing that the first win is just round the corner. Crowhurst will pay a visit to the field of dreams this coming Saturday, in what will be another very tough match. But it is also one that we are capable of winning as long as we stay strong, work hard, do the right things and want it bad enough. The only way is up!
Man of the match: Lee Chapman – gave his all for the whole 90 minutes, made many excellent runs and was a constant thorn in the side of the opposition. He was also very unlucky not to get on the score sheet at least once.
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...