Rangers ESFL side welcomed Wittersham to the sports part this week where a win for either side would see them top the division two table.
Rangers made two changes to the starting line up with Rob Anderson and Dan Wilkes, who both started on the bench last week, coming in for Josh Kyte and Lee Chapman. Dean Pugh, Tony Derese and Sean Hardie were named on a very strong rangers bench.
The team were warned before kick off about just how physical Wittersham were expected to be, and the away side did not disappoint! From the first whistle they were crunching into every challenge and were also a threat in the rangers defensive third. Rangers Martin Bell was the busier of the two keepers in the early exchanges with Bell having to play sweeper several times as well as saving superbly on 7 minutes when the Wittersham right winger burst through on goal forcing Bell into a smart save to his right. Rangers were not themselves in the opening exchanges but did manage to take the lead, albeit against the run of play when Jamie Strong fired in from close range after some good work down the rangers left. A sense of relief swept across the rangers players and management team as Wittersham had definitely made the better start.
Pickard and Barber made several good challenges/blocks at the back for rangers while Rob Anderson found himself in the book along with a Wittersham central midfielder, Anderson very unfortunate as it appeared the referee just wanted to even things up in his notebook. On the half hour rangers hit the away team with a classic counter attack. The ball was fed to Sullivan deep inside his own half who found a well timed run by Jesson on half way. After making the pass, Sullivan was left in a heap after a very late challenge but much to the referees credit, he played advantage. With only the keeper to beat as everyone had stopped expecting the foul to be given, Jesson skipped past the keeper and slotted home to give rangers a 2 goal lead with Jesson celebrating his long awaited first goal of the season.
The game now become even more intense seemingly with the away side happy to leave the foot in at every challenge with often left a rangers player on the ground. Just before half time Wittersham pulled a goal back and it was probably deserved. A freekick was swung in from the rangers left and the Wittersham centre half nodded past a helpless Bell at the back post – a devastating blow for rangers right on half time. 2-1.
At the break the management team stressed how important it was to maintain their focus as failure to do so could result in Wittersham whipping up some more self belief. Sullivan had to be withdrawn due to an injured wrist which saw Sean Hardie replace him on the right hand wing.
Six minutes into the second half, Pickard committed a foul on the edge of the rangers box. With his wall aligned, Bell had to watch agonisingly as the freekick deflected off of Luke Barber in the rangers wall with the ball ending up in the bottom corner of the rangers net. 2-2.
This without doubt galvanised Wittersham who sensed victory. Rangers had to dig deep and had to stay strong. Rangers almost scored after an exquisite ball from Strong found the run of Hardie who poked just wide from inside the Wittersham area. It wasn’t long before Hardie made amends though. Some neat work by Strong and Jesson down the left saw the latter jink his way to the touchline and pick out Hardie to smash the ball home from 8 yards, 3-2 rangers and game very much on.
This saw the away side hit the self destruct button, and after a disgraceful lunge on Strong, the Wittersham number 8 was given his marching orders. Shortly after, the rangers MSFL team arrived to offer some much needed support – their game having kicked off an hour earlier. Rangers were now in complete control of the game, probably for the first time with both a numerical and goal advantage. But the game wasn’t quite safe until Strong played in Jesson with 15 minutes to go. Jesson controlled neatly on his chest before slotting past the on rushing keeper who left the boot in on Jesson for good measure. 4-2 rangers.
Rangers held out for a well earned 3 points in what was a massive on field battle with a needlessly over-physical Wittersham outfit who will surely be there or thereabouts at the end of the season due to the way they’ll try to bully teams into submission. Rangers can be proud, for the first time in the league this year they were strongly tested, and they came through with flying colours. This was by no means a vintage performance but to still claim all three points, credit must be given to everyone who played and held their nerve in very testing conditions. MOM was awarded to Jesson (two goals and always a threat) who just shaded out Bell who had a very solid game between the sticks.
Next week the ESFL side face a lengthy trip to Bognor to play The Unicorn in the Sussex County Cup.
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...