Eastbourne Rangers welcomed Crowhurst to the "field of dreams" this weekend and were looking to secure their first three vital points of the season after suffering a club record four straight defeats. Crowhurst came into the game only having lost to league leaders and favourites Little Chelsea so the rangers management team knew this would be a tough but winnable game on home turf. Martin Bell hoped to secure his first competitive clean sheet in a rangers shirt, and tasked with helping his cause was the centre half pairing of skipper Dave Bennett-Tomlin and powerhouse Mike Pickard while Ricky Curran and Dan Chapman lined up at right and left back respectively. The influential Lee Chapman decided to play through the pain barrier to try and help rangers notch up their first win while Jules Waters returned to the side to partner Chapman in midfield. On the wings, Glen Noble and Chris Ward were given starters orders on the left and right wings while talisman Ben Jesson led the line. This left room for the impressive Jamie Strong to partner Jesson up front who had committed fully to rangers less than 24 hours previous after being dual signed with Mid Sussex Premier League outfit Willingdon Athletic. The rangers bench was made up of vice skipper Dan Harmer, Tom Tribe and Mark Hymans.
There was a good buzz in the dressing room before the game and much of this was due to the team bonding quiz night held the night before. Although the prematch team talk was interrupted by the inconsiderate timing of the Crowhurst manager entering the rangers dressing room for a very poor reason, the management team put forward there thoughts about how to address the game in order to get the win.
From the kick off it was clear that the away side looked keen to play football from the back, rangers in fact didn't touch the ball for a good minute or so from the Crowhurst centre kick. The Crowhurst number 10 seemed particularly problematic as he was dropping in the hole between the rangers midfield and back four. Rangers looked threatening in the final third of the pitch with Strong in particular looking a cut above the rest. It was Strong who carved open the first rangers chance of the game after he squared a ball to strike partner Jesson in the box which saw the away keeper make a very good save. Jesson then nearly turned provider when his corner saw Pickard rise the highest to head powerfully against the Crowhurst bar, with the keeper well beaten. So close.
Crowhurst then mounted an attack of their own when rangers lost the ball in midfield. A deep cross eventually came from the rangers right which saw Dan Chapman isolated on the back post, but although the Crowhurst man rose the highest, his header sailed over the rangers bar. Ten minutes before half time, Jesson pounced on a loose back-pass towards the away keeper but a quick recovery from the centre half with added back up from the keeper, Jesson was forced wide and the chance disappeared. On 39 minutes rangers mounted another assault on the Crowhurst goal with the ball eventually falling to Lee Chapman 10 yards out, but his flashing drive smashed against the crossbar and away to safety.
By now, rangers should have registered but the way things had been going for the red and blacks in the last three games, there was an air of predictability of what was in store with just one minute of the first half to go. A long hopeful ball from the Crowhurst centre half found his teammate running through the middle of the rangers back line on an onside position bearing down on Bell in the rangers goal. With one touch to control, the striker finished his chance well to dink over the helpless Bell to give the away side an undeserved lead. Shocking!! 1-0 Crowhurst!!
The half time whistle quickly followed and being one goal down was indeed a crushing blow. The management team called for calm and solidarity as it was very clear rangers were well on top in the game with regards to chances created. A big second half from every ranger was needed.....
From the restart, rangers looked hungry and appeared to have the self belief called for at half time. Five minutes in, rangers were gifted the chance of an equaliser. Jesson yet again intercepted a pass, this time between two defenders inside their own 18 yard box. With Jesson keeping calm, he picked out an unmarked Strong eight yards out who needed one touch to control before slotting in the rangers equaliser. 1-1 and just what the triple champions needed - a gift!!
Rangers began to show glimpses of what they are capable of especially down the rangers right with Strong, Jesson and Ward combining well on numerous occasions. After some neat interplay by the trio, Strong was able to get around the back of the Crowhurst defence. His low cross found Noble steaming into the box from his left wing but somehow, the Crowhurst keeper saved Nobles point blank effort with his trailing leg. To make matters even worse, from the resulting Waters corner, Bennett-Tomlin rose the highest and headed a good chance over the bar. On 60 minutes, the forced withdrawal of Lee Chapman saw Harmer enter the fray in a straight swap, with Chapman having played through the pain to contribute to the red and blacks quest for three points. As if that wasn't enough, just seven minutes later, Benentt-Tomlin was withdrawn as a precaution due to a tight hamstring which saw the introduction of Hymans at left back with Dan Chapman slotting in at centre half.
This double change did not upset the rangers flow, and although Crowhurst looked a danger on the break, they were restricted to long range efforts which in the main Bell dealt with comfortably. At the other end, Strong was coming more and more into the game with the away side clearly unsure of how to deal with him. It was no surprise that on 72 minutes, when rangers were awarded a free-kick 25 yards out that Strong stepped up. He then produced a moment of magic, a delightful effort that dipped over the wall and into the bottom corner of the Crowhurst net - quite sublime. 2-1 rangers, could this be the day?
Crowhurst pushed and pressed and still looked as though they believed the game was there to be won. Rangers knew form past experience that a one goal cushion was not enough - not enough to secure one point let alone all three. So on 81 minutes when Strong secured his first ever rangers hatrick (hopefully the first of many) after firing home a composed strike from 20 yards, rangers knew they were close; so close to their first win in division 2. Four minutes later every ranger looked to the skies when a speculative Crowhurst effort crept in the corner of the rangers net after bobbling over Bells hands. 3-2, was it going to be the same old story?
After five minutes of normal time, an eternity of injury time and a few hairy moments later, the referee blew the full time whistle much to the delight of the rangers players. This first win was well overdue, three games overdue, but finally rangers had got themselves over the line. The rangers MOM was awarded to Jamie Strong. And although his hatrick was the difference between the two sides, his all round play and enterprise was what also made this the easiest decision of the season so far. But let's not forget the contribution of everyone else who stood firm and still believed in themselves, even though going in one down on the stroke of half time despite have the better chances of the opening exchanges. Top work everyone, let's take this into next week.
The management team would also like to thank Tom Tribe for showing his support to the side who was an unused substitute on the day - a true ranger.
Next week rangers look to secure back to back wins when they travel to Catsfield in what surely must be a very winnable game. Let it be known that rangers will not be going for the draw.
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...