Eastbourne Rangers put their league troubles behind them this week as they looked to secure safe passage though to their second successive cup final, welcoming division three’s Visick to the field of dreams in the Eastbourne FA Junior Cup semi final. Rangers had corporate responsibilities to take care of before kick as local photographer Phil Burrowes, of Avant Photographic, kindly agreed to take squad and individual pictures of rangers in their new training tops and away kit with new sponsors also present. With photographs concluded, it was down to business.
Rangers had recently seen many players unavailable through injury and illness, and although brothers Dan and Lee Chapman returned to the squad, they were only deemed fit enough to start on the bench. Training in midweek saw Rob Anderson and Tom Tribe sustain injuries, with the latter passing a fitness test pre match. Steve Green was also unavailable as he was cup tied. Martin Bell, as ever, took the gloves between the sticks with skipper Dave Bennett-Tomlin partnering Tribe at centre half. Ricky Curran continued at left back with Chris Ward slotting in at right back as emergency cover for the injured Anderson. Jules Waters returned to centre midfield after missing last weeks game due to work commitments and he was partnered by vice skipper, Dan Harmer. After a “short” cameo last week, Josh Kyte returned to the starting XI on the left wing for the first time since January, while Connor Sullivan was given starters orders down the rangers right. After filling in at centre midfield last week, Ben Jesson returned to his favoured position to partner Sean Hardie up front. Mike Pickard joined the Chapman brothers on the rangers bench.
With the players briefed, the game got underway with rangers starting slowly. From the first kick, it was clear to see how Visick win so many games in division 3 with their over physical and unnecessary nature. Early on, Kyte was clearly obstructed on the left wing by the Visick full back in a race for the ball which saw the referee give the Visick man a ticking off. In the opening period, rangers were slow to react and seemed to be second to everything with the division three side clearly showing more desire to grab hold of the ultimate prize. Rangers looked threatening in the final third on a few occasions but what has been so apparent in recent times, decision making on when to cross and/or shoot was not at its best. That being said, Hardie and Jesson both came close but the Visick keeper was equal to the task.
On 18 minutes, rangers were on the end of a sucker punch. The red and blacks had a freekick deep inside Visick territory which the away defender hacked clear to the halfway line. With the ball bouncing, this was always going to prove a problem for the rangers defence. A Visick striker won the flick on which popped into the space behind the rangers back line. The second Visick striker showed Curran a clean pair of heals and raced away, finishing emphatically off of the rangers bar to give Visick the lead. 0-1.
After 21 minutes, Tribe’s injury got the better of him which saw Dan Chapman come on in centre midfield with Harmer filling the void left by Tribe at centre half. The introduction of Chapman instantly provided rangers with more energy in midfield, and with the management team asking Sullivan and Kyte to swap wings, this provided more impetus for the triple champions who began to look more dangerous from attacking positions.
Visick continued to apply their game plan which was to hunt and snipe at rangers, and in the main, this was providing to be effective. The good news was that rangers kept their cool and tried to let their football do the talking which was not mirrored in weeks gone by. 11 minutes before the interval, the Visick defence caved under the pressure rangers had put them under. A freekick on the rangers right was only partially cleared, and eventually the ball was passed to Waters in the right hand channel of the 18 yard box. Waters whipped the ball into the danger zone, hoping for a ranger to get on the end of it, but a Visick defender beat everybody to it – slicing the ball into his own net. 1-1 and rangers were back in the game.
Both sides had half changes before the interval with Visick coming close from a header via a corner and Sullivan cutting in and testing the Visick keeper, but honours were even at half time. During the break, rangers were given a dressing down as performance levels were below par from almost every player while defensive issues were also addressed. With that, rangers were ready to tackle the second period.
Visick continued where they left off, and one of their players found themselves in the book for a poor challenge on half way. Hardie again came close with a delicate lob which had the keeper well beaten, but the ball drifted just wide. Rangers application in the second half was much improved and a break for the red and blacks on 62 minutes suggested rangers were on the up. Kyte picked up the ball down the rangers right on the half way line which saw the little man cut inside. After looking up, Kyte saw the run of Sullivan who was cutting in from the rangers left hand side. A perfectly weighted ball saw Sullivan gather the ball just inside the Visick half. Sullivan, using his pace and power, bustled his way through three challenges before bursting into the 18 yard box and finished superbly into the corner of the Visick net – a superb goal. 2-1 rangers, had they done enough?
Sullivan soon turned from hero to villain after a Visick corner swung its way to the front post with a Visick player losing Sullivan to head home at the near post. 2-2 and game on. Rangers then introduced Lee Chapman to the game who replaced Waters in centre midfield.
After getting themselves back in the game so quickly, Visick were soon reduced to 10 men. Curran went in for a 50/50 challenge with a Visick midfielder who took exception to Currans follow thorough, despite Curran winning the ball. With Curran still on the floor, the Visick man proceeded to hurl threats and obscenities at the rangers full back, leaving the referee know choice but to send the perpetrator off for an early bath- ungentle manly conduct….
With the management team considering a formation change to pinch a match winning goal, the players prevented such a change with 19 minutes left on the clock. Lee Chapman picked up possession in centre midfield and played a delightful pass to Jesson, who had found space in-between the Visick right back and centre half. Controlling on the half turn, the rangers man burst into the opponent’s penalty area, dropped his shoulder before finishing calmly into the far corner of the keepers net. 3-2 rangers.
With the red and blacks taking a deserved lead, this saw the opposition self destruct even further after a Visick player, already on a booking, stupidly kicked the ball away after a decision went against him. Again, with literally no choice, the man in the middle produced a second yellow card for the offender which reduced Visick to nine men. With a severe numerical advantage, rangers were rarely troubled in the last 15 minutes of the game with Visick now really stretched all over the pitch. Only one or two long balls may have troubled the rangers back four but Harmer and Bennett-Tomlin were on hand to mop up any danger.
Rangers held on for the victory, and on the balance of play this was a deserved victory despite being pushed all the way by Visick. Rangers are still a long way from their best with plenty of work to do on the training ground, but a win is most definitely a win. And this win saw rangers secure their second successive cup final which will be played at the end of April or the beginning of May at The Oval, Eastbourne United.
The management team would like to thank Mike Pickard who was an unused substitute for this game, thanks for giving up your time big man.
Next week sees rangers make the long trip to second placed Wadhurst United with the team selection merry-go-round certain to play a part again. Hopefully rangers can secure a good result.
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...