Rangers looked to put last weeks appalling league performance behind them and welcomed division one's Crowborough Athletic III to the field of dreams in a Wisden Sports Challenge Cup tie. Rangers had several members of the squad unavailable for varying reasons with Sean Hardie cup tied, Glen Noble and Dave Bennett- Tomlin injured, Jules Waters working and Josh Kyte away. With the rangers squad stretched, this saw Ryan Webb called into the squad for cover which saw him join the ever dependable Tom Tribe on the bench. The starting XI saw the eve present Martin Bell command the gloves while Dan Harmer was recalled to the starting line up which saw the club vice skipper take the armband in his record breaking 100th appearance for the club. Mike Pickard joined Harmer at the heart of the rangers defence with Ricky Curran and Mark Hymans given the nod at right and left back respectively. In front of the two full backs saw Chris Ward and the returning Connor Sullivan provide the with while rangers employed a midfield trio of Rob Anderson, Lee Chapman and Dan Chapman. Ben Jesson was selected to lead the line on his own and with the rangers team given strict instructions before the game regarding the game-plan; a game-plan reflecting that of what was worked on on training on Wednesday night, the red and blacks were ready do battle.
With the Athletic keeper running late, the opposition elected to start with ten men in the hope he would arrive. Rangers plans were not to be disrupted though with everyone well informed of their roles, however the easy decision to shoot on site was passed onto the red and blacks starting line up.
It was clear from the kick off that The Crows had both the height and physical advantage on the triple champions but rangers were not to be deterred. Fired up from the opening minute, rangers did not let Athletic have time on the ball, and in possession rangers looked the tidier, as you may well expect from a team with a one man advantage. However, with the Crows fielding a strengthened side with county league division one players draughted in, this was still initially an even contest; a contest of which rangers were clearly more fired up for compared to that of a lethargic Crowborough side.
Rangers broke the deadlock after just thirteen minutes. Sullivan picked up a loose ball on the rangers left and drove inside at the Athletic midfield. Jesson made an intelligent run across the centre backs for Sullivan to play a delightful reverese pass into the path of the rangers front man. With the Crowborough defence calling for offside, Jesson sped away and after one touch to control, slid the ball underneath the stand-in keeper into the back of the net. 1-0 rangers, could there be an upset on the cards.
This saw the the Athletic manager bring on another outfield player to even up the two teams with still no sign of the Crowborough number one. In the meantime, rangers continued to put themselves about all over the pitch with Anderson and the Chapman brothers breaking up play in the middle of the park with Lee Chapman getting forward wherever possible to support the lone ranger Jesson, who was putting in a good shift leading the line. With 28 minutes gone, rangers should have doubled their lead. Dan Chapman took a freekick from deep inside the oppositions half with Pickard and Harmer joining the party in the Athletic box. With the away team playing for the offside, Harmer snuck around the back timing his run to perfection in the process, only to see the rangers skipper head agonisingly wide. So close....
Just four minutes later, this miss proved costly. Confusion in the rangers defence saw the Athletic centre forward break clear and finish with aplomb, underneath the despairing Bell. 1-1. Rangers had to react, this was a setback but only a minor one. Even against 11 men rangers still looked more than capable of scoring again, and at the same time Pickard and Harmer were solid along with the added protection of defensive midfielder Dan Chapman exceptional, combined with the "buzzing" Anderson. This allowed Lee Chapman the opportunity to break forward to support Jesson with Ward and Sullivan on the rangers flanks looking dangerous. Hymans and Curran had had the Athletic wingers under control most of the time, and all in all, the rangers team looked settled and determined.
With 34 minutes on the clock rangers regained the lead from a quite unlikely source. Dan Chapman won the ball 30 yards from goal and ghosted past an opposing midfielder before firing a shot from 25 yards into the corner of the net, 2-1 rangers, a superb finish. The red and blacks continued to hold their own with their game-plan working to perfection. Rangers defended stoutly and were determined to win every ball with Jesson picking his battles wisely up front against the Crowborough back line.
Three minutes before half time, rangers earned a corner on the right. With Jesson under instruction to find Pickard in the box, and with Sullivan also playing his part to allow this to happen, Pickard powered a header from the resulting corner which the Athletic keeper failed to hold. Ward reacted the quickest and headed the ball goal-wards only for a defender to handle the ball beyond the goal line. With rangers calling for the goal, the referee consulted with the Crowborough linesman who claimed the ball had not crossed the line. This left the referee with no option but to send off the perpetrator and this time Athletic were now down to an enforced ten men. After a short delay, Jesson stepped up to take the spot kick and slammed the ball into the roof of the net, with the keeper getting a slight hand to the ball. 3-1, and fully deserved.
At half time the starting XI were welcomed by heaps of praise. Game-plan, player application and generally awareness by the team was second to none, however there is always room from improvement. With a few minor areas addressed, and with it mentioned that the opposition would be coming out extremely fired up, rangers knew that only 45 minutes stood between them and a famous victory. Also at the interval, The Crows keeper had now reported for duty and was duly brought on.
Crowborough noticeably came out with extra spring in their step and began to show the kind of football that has seen them rise to second in the division one table. That being said, the bravehearts of rangers mainly restricted the opposition to long range efforts with Bell in the rangers goal extremely tidy in everything he did, including claiming numerous crosses and corners. This in turn settled the back four, and with Bells distribution also excellent which often saw rangers mount some serious attacks coming from the back with Hymans in particular always an outlet.
Sixteen minutes into the half, Lee Chapman was scythed on the edge of the Athletic area, just before he was about to pull the trigger. With the wall aligned, Jesson placed the ball and weighed up his options. Options weighed up, Jesson elected to fire at the far corner which saw the keeper well beaten with both the bar AND post denying him of his hatrick.
At the other end, Pickard put in a superb last ditch tackle in the rangers box to deny the Athletic striker a clear shooting opportunity while from the resulting corner, Bell claimed the ball with supreme confidence. Midway through the second half, rangers put some real daylight between them and The Crows. Jesson took a corner from the rangers left which found an unmarked Lee Chapman just five yards out. His header was handled yet again behind the goal line but this time the Athletic linesman immediately signalled for a goal, maybe through fear of seeing his side reduced to nine men. 4-1 rangers.
This saw Crowborough make another change with yet another six foot monster added to their midfield. A period on consolidation from rangers followed as at this point they were well in control of the game. The Crowborough game-plan had now changed as they were looking to use their clear aerial advantage to their gain. However, Harmer and Pickard continued to win everything at the back with Dan Chapman always on hand to mop up anything on the deck. Fellow midfield "spoiler" Anderson unfortunately had to be replaced with fifteen minutes left due to injury. This saw the energetic Sullivan move into midfield while Webb was introduced into the game on the left wing. Rangers now had their backs to the wall and knew they would have to defend solid if they were to see the game out, and with that in mind the management team made their final substitution when Tribe replaced Curran at right back. Tribes contribution was almost instantaneous winning two quick consecutive headers and throwing his body on the line with a great tackle on the edge of the rangers area.
With seven minutes remaining, athletic were thrown a lifeline. Hymans was adjudged to have handled in the area after a point blank cross from the Crowborough winger hit his arm. With both sets of players awaiting with baited breath, relief then followed as the Crowborough man smashed the ball against the rangers bar. Some would say justice was done ;-) However with just two minutes left on the clock, Crowborough did manage to get their second goal of the afternoon. A cross from the rangers left was expertly met by one of the oppositions smaller men, who glanced the ball into the corner of Bell's net. A great finish, however questionable marking. 4-2 rangers.
The red and blacks managed to see the remaining minutes out to secure a well deserved victory. Clear underdogs going into the game, rangers can be very proud of their efforts. What a difference a week makes.....
Tactically rangers were spot on today and every ranger applied themselves perfectly. The fact that Crowborough had ten men for most of the game should not take anything away for the triple champions. Work-rate, player application and the fact that rangers were able to play the better football in key areas undoubtably meant the red and blacks were more than good value for the win. A very wise man passed on these wise words just hours after this rangers victory, words we should all take note of - "It doesn't matter how many, or who you play against - a win is a win and that's what counts". Too true....
With excellent performances all over the pitch with Jesson leading the line tirelessly on his own, all the way back to an accomplished Bell in the rangers goal, we should not forget the contribution on of the rest of the team with both Chapman's excellent throughout while Pickard and Harmer were also bang on the money. On a normal day, Dan Chapman may well have edged the MOM award. However, Dan Harmer shades it due to the fact that he should probably have been at home awaiting for the arrival of his first born child and also that today he made rangers history by being the first man to rack up 100 appearances. Top work fella.
Next week rangers make the trip to Wittersham in a league clash where it is hoped this kind of commitment can be carried forward to claim the triple champions three points of vital importance.
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...