After two wins and two clean sheets in a row Rangers were in a confident mood going into what was bound to be a very stern test away to JC Tackleway. The management team was hoping there were no after effects from the previous week’s bruising and energy sapping extra time cup victory. News came through on Friday afternoon that Tackleway’s pitch was very unlikely to be playable, and they were therefore requesting that the game be switched to a home game for Rangers. However due to the fact that somebody had the clever idea of running a cross country race over the football pitches at the Sports Park, the only pitch available was the very small college pitch on Kings Drive. Despite the fact that this pitch is not at all suited to the red & blacks expansive style of play, and that they were missing several key players, there was no hesitation on Rangers part in agreeing to the switch as everybody in the club just wants to play every week and they didn’t want to ‘bottle it’.
Rangers were missing two of their main attacking threats, as both Gen Noble and the in form Josh Kyte were absent due to injury. With Connor Sullivan also not available as he was watching his beloved Arsenal, the red & blacks were looking a bit light in the attacking positions. The management team was therefore very pleased to have Sean Hardie available to make his debut after transferring from local rivals Herstmonceux. This saw Rangers line up with the ever present Martin Bell in goal, Ricky Curran & Mark Hymans taking up position at right back and left back respectively, either side of Dave Bennett-Tomlin & Mike Pickard. Brothers Dan & Lee Chapman were tasked with controlling the middle of the park, while Rob Anderson & Christian Ward were asked to provide the width (what little there was of it) on the wings. In the absence of Kyte & Noble, Ward was asked to take up the unfamiliar left wing berth. Up front, debutant Sean Hardie was asked to play in the hole behind the lively Ben Jesson. This left a subs bench of Tom Tribe, Dan Harmer who had agreed to play due to several players being missing, despite expecting to become a father for the first time at any moment (great commitment fella). The third sub spot went to Julian Waters who despite being sick all week declared himself fit enough to do 10 – 15 minutes if required.
With pre match instructions issued, the red and blacks were ready to kick off on what was a beautiful day for football. Rangers came close to opening the scoring in the first few seconds, when a poor clearance from a Tackleway defender fell to Rob Anderson on the right, he burst through one on one with the keeper, but a heavy touch allowed the ball to run through to the man with the gloves. It was obvious from very early on what the tactics of the young pacy Tackleway would be, they were looking to commit a lot of players forward and break quickly at every opportunity.
On a small pitch they were able to play with three at the back and commit a lot of men to attacks without leaving toomany gaps at the back. A couple of times in the first few minutes they nearly caught the red & blacks out with quick breaks. Rangers had a let off early on when the Tackleway striker was played through 1 on 1 with Bell, but he was off his line quickly to make a good block. It wasn’t all one way traffic though, as Hardie and Jesson up front were both looking lively and were start to link up well which bodes very well for the future. On one particular occasion Jesson picked up the ball near the half line and went on a mazy run beating several players in the process, he then played a perfect ball through to Hardie whose great run had left him in space by the penalty spot. His first time shot seemeddestined for the top left hand corner of the goal, but at the last second it drifted just a fraction wide, so close.
Not long after this Rangers found themselves one down in slightly unfortunate circumstances. A Tackleway corner was half cleared to the edge of the area from where a follow up shot deflected through to a Tackleway player who was stood almost on the goal line from where he was able to just tap the ball in. All the Rangers players and the referee looked over to Harmer on the touch line for what looked like a fairly obvious offside decision, but possibly distracted by the thought that his phone could ring at any minute, he forgot to raise the flag and the goal was awarded. Before the red & blacks even had a chance to refocus they found themselves two down. Once again there was a hint of bad luck involved. From a quick break down the left, Curran made a challenge that saw the ball deflected across to the other side of the pitch where it fell right into the path of a Tackleway player who was in acres of space, and he was able to run through and fire a shot past Bell into the far corner. While the Rangers back four were struggling to contain Tackleway on the break, up front Jesson and Hardie were still creating chances and giving the opposition back four a lot of problems. But with still only 20 minutes on the clock, the red & blacks ended up 3 down. There appeared to be little danger after Lee Chapman intercepted a through ball just inside the box, however he had been having problems with the boots he was wearing on a slippy pitch, which caused him to lose his footing and fall over. A nearby Tackleway player gleefully took advantage and slammed the ball past Bell into the net.
Although the circumstances of all 3 goals had been unfortunate for Rangers, there was no doubt that defensively they were struggling against Tackleway’s high tempo and pacy style of play. However despite being 3 goals down, Rangers started getting on top and having more of the play and possession as the half went on. Before long they had pulled a goal back, with Jesson coming deep to pick up the ball before turning and going on a run which ended up with him playing a lovely weighted ball though the right channel into the path of the on rushing Anderson who outpaced the covering defender before slipping the ball past thekeeper. 3-1 and Rangers tails were up now. The chances were coming thick and fast for Rangers now. Jesson was once again the creator as he made a great run down the right flank, before beating the full back and cutting in along the goal line, he then played a perfect ball into Hardie inside the 6 yard area and his low shot seem destined for the bottom corner until at full stretch the keeper just managed to get a toe to the ball and divert it wide. After another good run, Jesson who seemed to be involved in every attacking move by the red & blacks was brought down right on the edge of the area. He stepped up to take the free kick himself, and all the Rangers players and supporters could only watch on in agony as his direct shot literally brushed the angle of the post and crossbar before going wide.
With the half time whistle going shortly afterwards, Rangers could reflect on a half where they had been caught cold by a very quick start by the opposition, but had come back into the game well, and had ended up on top. With a bit more luck, they could even have ended the half on level terms. During the break the gaffer was keen to stress how the red & blacks were still very much in the game and were creating lots of chances going forward. One more goal would see Rangers well and truly back in the game. There was also a change in the line up at half time as captain Bennett-Tomlin’s tight hamstring led to a straight swap with Harmer coming on to replace him at centre back.
Unfortunately despite a positive start to the 2nd half where a couple of good incursions were made into the Tackleway box, it was the opposition rather than the red & blacks who added to the scoreline. The goal came from a free kick after Pickard committed a foul about 25 yards out and just to the right of the goal. The Tackleway player proceeded to bend his shot round the wall and it came back a long way possibly with some assistance from the wind, which probably surprised Bell who was unable to stop the ball flying past him at the near post. This goal seemed to knock the stuffing out of the red & blacks, and saw the opposition start to take a strangle hold on the game. Up front Jesson and Hardie were still working hard but were getting little joy for their efforts now. Rangers then found themselves further behind as the Tackleway left back picked up the ball near the halfway line and then embarked on a run which saw him beat Anderson, Curran and Pickard before firing a shot past Bell into the far corner. A quality finish no doubt, but disappointing from a defensive point of view. With nothing to lose, the gaffer decided to ring the changes and Hymans was replaced by Tribe, which saw the red and blacks revert to a back three, as Harmer was pushed into centre midfield along with the Chapman brothers. Up top Hardie was told to push right up with Jesson. Tackleway were now happy to just sit back and hit Rangers on the break when they could. With 15 minutes to go there was a final throw of the dice as the gaffer brought on Waters for Ward, and pushed him up top to form a front 3 with Jesson and Hardie.
Despite this change Rangers weren’t able to make much headway. With so many players pushed forward, the red & blacks were eventually caught on the break with a couple of minutes left. One of the Tackleway subs was left with a simple finish from a left wing cross to make it 6-1 after a quick breakaway. When the final whistle went very shortly afterwards, there was a sense of relief amongst the Rangers players and supporters that the game was over. It had certainly been a bad day at the office for Rangers. Apart from a short period before half time, it was a fairly lacklustre performance from the red & blacks, and certainly one of their poorer displays so far this season. While the small tight pitch certainly didn’t suit Rangers and there may have been some hangover from the cup game the previous week, the squad is capable of much better than was shown in this game.Credit must also go to Tackleway who proved to be a very good team, and were definitely the best footballing side the red & blacks have faced so far this season. Man ofthe match was awarded to Ben Jesson who was lively throughout, and was involved in most of the good things that Rangers did in the game. An honourable mention also goes to Sean Hardie who looked a threat on his debut, especially in the first half and linked well with Jesson.
Things don’t get any easier for Rangers as next up they face an in form Crowborough team from division 1 in the league cup. Crowborough come into the game on the back of a series of impressive results including a 9-1 win in their last outing. They are also many people’s favourites to win division 1 this season. So it certainly won’t be an easy task for Rangers this week, but in a one off cup game anything can happen. However one thing is for sure, Rangers will have to up their performance significantly from this game to stand any chance. An improved display will be demanded and expected by the management team.
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...