Eastbourne Rangers were faced with a monumental task this week of getting a result against a formidable Wadhurst United side, a side that had five straight wins under their belts including taking the scalps of two division one teams in cup competitions, including division one leaders Battle Baptists. Rangers were without playmaker Jules Waters and the injured Mark Hymans, and after two late withdrawals from the squad in Tom Tribe and Jamie Strong, the red and blacks had a match-day squad of 13 to choose from. Rangers would also have to make do without manager Nick Stevenson who was away on business which left coach Marc "Robbo" McKay in charge of game day proceedings. Keeper Martin Bell had a new look back four in front of him which saw skipper and vice skipper, Dave Bennett-Tomlin and Dan Harmer line up at centre half while Rob Anderson and Ricky Curran took root at right and left back respectively. The stand in gaffer opted for experience in the centre of midfield with brothers Lee and Dan Chapman looking to get an early grip on the game. Gnome-like (because of his height, not because he stands still) Josh Kyte got the nod on the left wing while on the opposite flank Chris Ward returned to ths starting XI after only making the substitutes bench last time out. In charge of supplying the rangers goals was the in form Glen Noble and talisman Ben Jesson, with both looking to add to their tallies for the season. This saw Mike Pickard and Connor Sullivan on the rangers bench, both very unlucky to miss out from the starting line up.
With the rangers players primed for the job ahead and the wind wailing around the Old Town rec pitch, it was always going to be a tough afternoon for the underdogs in red and black. That being said, confidence was high after some excellent recent performances. Rangers kicked into the wind first half and it was clear to see early on how Wadhurst we're going to play. They had pace up front and their front men were also very physical with it which meant a interesting battle for centre halves Bennett-Tomlin and Harmer who had many long balls to deal with from the kick off.
The first chance of the game came from one of these long balls when the Wadhurst striker burst through one on one with keeper Bell. The rangers number one stood his ground and pulled off a superb save, and with covering defenders arriving, rangers kept the score at 0-0 much to the relief of the watching supporter(s). Rangers themselves looked like a much more rounded team going forward with Ward, Noble, Jesson and Kyte looking dangerous when the ball was played to feet. With the Chapman brothers marshalling the midfield, with Lee in particular putting himself all round the park both defensively and offensively, rangers were keen to get some rhythm into their play. Going forward rangers always looked a threat in the opening 25 minutes while the rangers back four, and Bell, looked in control in their own third.
Just on the half an hour mark Wadhurst struck a killer blow, arguably against the run of play. With the Wadhurst right winger picking the ball up deep inside his own half, he pinged an absolute "worldy" to his teammate, who had pealed of Harmer, on the rangers right. With the ball having travelled 50 yards, all eyes were on Harmer to recover after the Wadhurst mans first touch. However, his first touch was also a "worldy" which took the ball away from Harmer and left the Wadhurst striker bearing down on Bell in the rangers goal in one foul swoop. With still plenty to do, the Wadhurst man coolly rounded Bell and slotted home to give the away side the lead. 0-1.
Rangers felt aggrieved as the goal literally came out of nowhere, but little did they know that just a few minutes later, they would find themselves 2 goals down amid some controversy. Bell came out to collect yet another high ball (which possibly came down with snow on) but whilst he was in mid-air having secured the ball, he was manhandled to the ground by a Wadhurst striker. Bell spilled the ball, and to EVERYONES absolute dismay, the referee allowed a simple tap in from six yards out to STAND. Despite rangers protesting, the goal stood with the only thing rangers having to show for their troubles was a booking for skipper Bennett- Tomlin who was clearly not allowed to speak to the man in black. 2-0 Wadhurst.
To rangers credit, they quickly put this setback behind them and continued to play football with the hope of getting back into the game before half time. Eight minutes before the interval rangers got what they deserved, finally....! After some neat play down the rangers left, Jesson laid the ball back to Curran at full back about thirty yards from goal, five yards in from the touch line. With one touch to control, with his second touch Curran sent in an ARROW like cross to the back post where Ward leapt the highest to THUMP a header into the top corner. Unstoppable. 2-1 and rangers were back in business.
Rangers now had their tails up and confidence was brimming all over the pitch. With the Wadhurst wingers playing very high up when in possession, almost forming a four man front line, this left rangers with lots of space to exploit on the wings on the break. It was such a break that nearly paid dividends for the triple champions when Kyte burst away down the left flank. With his man backing off, and some clever movement from Noble to open up some more space for his teammate, Kyte turned on the afterburners, left his man for dead and unleashed a shot towards the back post which crept agonisingly wide.....so close.
The half time whistle followed soon after which saw a temporary end to an intriguing contest with the rangers players rightly happy with their efforts. The half time team talk focused on the many positives from the opening period which saw the red and blacks possibly shade the first 45 minutes, and also battle back to come in at the interval trailing by just the solitary goal when it would have been easy to roll over. With both teams taking the field of play, there was a two minute wait for the referee to return to the field of play, who despite being ill, still showed up to take charge of the game. Top work. :-)
From the kick off, it was apparent that rangers still believed they were well in the game. And they were.......
The midfield battle was well and truly being won by the Chapman brothers, tidy with the ball at their feet and industrious when trying to win the ball back. Seven minutes into the second half, rangers levelled which was truly deserved. Dan Chapman won the ball in central midfield, and off balance, slid a pinpoint through ball into the path of Jesson. With the Wadhurst back line breached, the little man rounded the keeper, but found himself pushed wide. Two touches later, Jesson had the ball of his favoured right foot and finished high into the roof of the net despite the despairing slides of the defenders. 2-2, fully deserved - GAME ON.
With the away side rattled, rangers appeared to having more control of the game. This was due to the rangers passing style, a complete contrast to Wadhurst, who in the main elected to go long hence giving away possession more often than not. Midway through the second half, the trio of Noble, Jesson and Ward played some neat one touch football which carved open the Wadhurst defence with the latter providing a cross in the corridor of uncertainty which was inches away from being tapped in.
This passage of play was indicative of how rangers attacking prowess would be on show with neat interchanging of passes now apparent all over the pitch. Wadhurst had some strong runners with the ball at their feet in central positions however bulldozing their way through the middle was a tough task with the Chapman brothers, Bennett-Tomlin and Harmer equal to anything put before them. The more the game wore on, the more rangers confidence grew. Only a freak goal would cost the boys in red a result on the day, and fortunately Bell was on hand to put a stop to such an occurrence when he athletically beat away a rasping 25 yard Wadhurst effort.
The rangers forward players were now finding themselves in lots of space. This was due to some good movement and the tiring Wadhurst players struggling to keep up with Jesson and Noble who ran their socks off all afternoon. Sullivan then replaced Kyte on the left wing to give a further injection of pace with 20 minutes to go who was instructed to run at the defenders at every opportunity. With thirteen minutes left on the clock, Jesson breached the Wadhurst back line in the left hand channel between full back and centre half. Jigging one way, and then the other, Jesson fizzed the ball over to Noble on the edge of the six yard box. With the goal gaping, Noble managed to get a good contact on the ball, but being of balance, his effort smashed against the bar and away to safety.....
The game was only going to produce one winner based on the second half, and rangers were in the ascendancy. The back four looked solid, and with the six players higher up the pitch dictating the game, the red and blacks firmly believed they could come away with all three points. Unfortunately, rangers were limited to set pieces around thirty yards out whilst rangers counter attacks, although looking dangerous, were generally snuffed out by the away team in the closing stages of the game. When the final whistle was blown, there was an air of disappointment in the air for rangers, who despite coming back from two goals down, were clearly disappointed not to secure all three points. This clearly shows rangers have turned the corner over the last few weeks, and with this gritty display, rangers will be keen to use this as a springboard for the next two very winnable league games.
With the whole team impressive, it was felt the rangers engine room was due much of the credit with brothers Dan and Lee Chapman superb throughout, the latter claiming a well deserved MOM award. And a special mention to Mike Picakrd who was an unused substitute. Thanks big man.
Much was talked about application before this game, and the correct application was apparent throughout. This is the time for each and every ranger to reflect; Reflect on the month of September when points were hard to come by albeit it for very differing reasons; and reflect on the month of October where everyone has stepped up their game, particularly today when yet another decision went against us at a crucial time. As crucial as it was at the time, the response from the players was superb, and it's this type of response and application that will see us rise up the league table.
Next week sees rangers go back on the road when they travel to bottom club Ninfield United II. Let's not undo all this good work by going into this game taking it for granted. We CANNOT afford to do that......
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...