Eastbourne Rangers finally got back to league action this week with their first league game since early December 2013. However, on arrival to the pitch allocated for the game at the sports park, the contractors paid by the council (who have had very little to do over the past three months) had failed to mark out the lines on the playing surface. Fortunately, there was a spare pitch which was seemingly deemed unsuitable for use by the council but neither team nor the referee seemed too concerned particularly as the lines on this pitch had been clearly marked out!
After last weeks cup win, the management team were forced to make just one change to the starting XI that propelled rangers into the Eastbourne Junior cup semi final. Sean Hardie was unavailable so this paved the way for Steve Green to make his long awaited competitive rangers debut in place of Hardie with a slight reshuffling of the pack to accommodate the debutant. Last weeks match winner Connor Sullivan was moved from the left wing to partner Ben Jesson up front which saw Green slot in to the left wing birth. On the opposite wing, Chris Ward maintained his place while last weeks pairing of Jules Waters and vice skipper Dan Harmer looked to boss the game in central midfield. Rob Anderson and Ricky Curran were to continue at right and left back respectively as were centre half duo Tom Tribe and skipper Dave Bennett-Tomiln. The rangers bench consisted of Mike Pickard, Ryan Webb and Andrea Chiesa.
After a slightly delayed kick off, rangers looked the sharper of the two teams from the first whistle, no doubt the mid season friendlies were paying dividends. Catsfield's tactics were clear, feed the ball into the front men as quickly as possible, then work from the knock downs - but the rangers back four grew wise to this very quickly and were rarely troubled in the opening exchanges. The playing surface was difficult with keeper Bell unusually instructed to kick long more frequently rather than using his full backs to play the ball out from the back. It was a long kick from Bell that caused mayhem in the Catsfield defence in the seventh minute. Jesson made a nuisance of himself against the the centre half who failed to meet the ball before it bounced. With the ball still bouncing, Jesson tussled with the defender on the edge of the box while the keeper came rushing from his line. Jesson then supplied a neat finish over the keepers head to give rangers a DREAM start. 1-0.
The onus was now on the away side to get themselves back into the game and a few minutes later, a golden chance fell to their number nine who could only trickle a shot towards Bell thanks to good pressure from Bennett-Tomlin. The work-rate of Jesson and Sullivan up front ensured that the Catsfield back four were always short of time with the front two , supported by the midfield four, always choosing wisely when to press and pressure the opposition. Rangers nearly doubled their lead after 21 minutes when Harmer was put through the heart of the Catsfield defence by a clever first time ball from Sullivan. With only the keeper to beat, Harmer couldn't quite get a good enough contact on the ball to test the on rushing keeper, who saved smartly at the feet of the rangers stalwart.
A period of pressure form Catsfield followed although Bell in the rangers goal was rarely tested other than from long range. The rangers number one did have to be at his best to claw away a cross-shot on the half hour which went to safety and also showed some classy handling from long range efforts, giving the away forwards no scraps to feed off. Rangers were competing well all over the pitch and looked a threat in the final third on most occasions. On 36 minutes Waters carried the ball thirty yards in midfield before releasing Green down the rangers left who ate up the grass in front of him. The inroads by Green almost unlocked the door for Jesson but his shot was pulled fractionally wide with the keeper frustratingly well beaten.
Five minutes before the interval, rangers suffered a sucker punch. A throw into the rangers area saw the Catsfield man shield the ball well from Curran. After a neat turn, a cross was fired across the rangers six yard box where a Catsfield striker poked home from three yards to level the score - a poor, poor goal to give away at a crucial time. From the restart rangers mounted a meaningful attack down the right where a Ward shot was cleverly stepped over by Jesson on the six yard box only to see the Catsfield keepers handling bang on the money.
During the half time interval, the management team were on the whole pleased but were rueing the goal gifted to Catsfield. Rangers looked the more threatening without a doubt so the starting XI were sent out to apply the same attitude and work rate which was a feature of the first forty five minutes.
From the restart, Catsfield had now become even more direct with balls being fired up to the number nine from deep within the Catsfield half. The impressive and blossoming partnership of Bennett-Tomlin and Tribe were more than a match for the Catsfield front two with the former an absolute rock against a more seasoned footballer throughout the game. That combined with the youthful legs of Tribe, rangers looked in complete control in defence with Anderson and Curran providing good cover as well as marshalling their respective wingers brilliantly. At the other end, Sullivan become more of a menace as the game progressed. His partnership with Jesson was clearly blooming and it was no surprise when the two combined to restore rangers lead. A quick break down the rangers right saw the red and blacks claim a throw 18 yards from goal. A clever run from Jesson combined with the quick thinking of Sullivan saw the latter find the jinking Jesson in the box with a pinpoint throw. A drop of the shoulder saw Jesson go past his man on the outside leaving him an impossible angle but the rangers hitman somehow slid the ball past the keeper to give rangers a well deserved lead. 2-1.
With half an hour to go, Chiesa replaced Waters who was struggling with a knock but fresh legs in the middle of the park would hopefully help see ranges through. A change in shape from Catsfield saw them move an extra man up front which left plenty of room on the wings for rangers to exploit. Green had a couple of surging runs which on a different day may have produced another goal. On one occasion Green exploited the space on the left and steam rolled into the area only to get a weak shot away after a heavy final touch gave the keeper a chance to close him down. With time ticking away, rangers were keen to kill off the game, and with fifteen minutes left on the clock the game was nearly put to bed. A Jesson corner from the right found the head of Chiesa eight yards out who headed fractionally wide - so close!!
Catsfield continued with their directness and with the assistance of Harmer and Chiesa, the rangers back four stood firm. The Catsfield number nine had a half chance twenty yards out with a few minutes to go but he dragged his shot wide after Tribe threw his body on the line to close the forward down. A break by Jesson at the other end saw him cynically fouled on the edge of the Catsfield box with the perpetrator somehow not even shown a yellow card- maybe because Jesson was honest enough to stay on his feet. Jesson took the resulting freekick which was cleared to Green 25 yards out whose first time effort whistled narrowly over the bar.
Catsfield continued to push but rangers we're determined to stand firm. Bell was displaying superb handling in the rangers goal which was no doubt a calming influence on the entire team, with Bell most notably plucking a dangerous ball from the air in the dying moments of the game. But rangers DESERVEDLY held on for a much needed win, a massive three league points which has propelled the team to sixth in the league.
Every ranger put in a superb shift today with the spine of the team immense. Tribe and Bennett-Tomlin marshalled a player who was playing at Eastbourne Borough last season superbly well while Harmer showed great character and determination to knuckle down and feature heavily for the team after last weeks incident. The front two dictated the rhythm of the team, not only were they magnificent with the ball but their work rate without the ball was quite superb. But the MOM was marginally awarded to Sullivan for his work ethic and his quick thinking that secured rangers that winning goal, with the two centre backs in the mix for the second week in succession, who both put in excellent performances.
The management team would like to thank Ryan Webb and Mike Pickard for giving up their time to attend today's game, both of whom were unused substitutes. Superb team spirit fellas.
Next week sees rangers face the daunting trip to JC Tackleway where the red and blacks will be hoping to put in a better performance compared to that of the the reverse before Christmas, a 6-1 home defeat.
Can rangers make it a hatrick of wins?
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...