The Eastbourne Rangers East Sussex side welcomed Catsfield to the sports park to face a side who had already played seven days previous while rangers had the week off. Catsfield were defeated on home soil by Herstmonceux 4-2 and rangers were hoping for a similar result to kick start their season.
With rangers number one Martin Bell out of action for around ten days due to a fractured shoulder, an injury he picked up last weekend for the rangers Mid Sussex team, rangers stalwart Grant Smith was called into action as emergency cover between the sticks after coming out of retirement. In front of Smith was skipper Dave Bennett-Tomlin, Tony Derese and full backs Steve Green and Luke Barber, the latter making his competitive rangers debut. Another debutant partnered vice captain Lee Chapman in centre midfield in the form of Steve Reeves, a player rangers had tracked for more than two years while Connor Sullivan and Sean Hardie were given the green light on the rangers wings. And with Ben Jesson and Jamie Strong leading the line, the red and blacks were confident of being able to break the visitors hearts. The rangers bench consisted of Jules Waters, Josh Kyte, Rob Anderson and Ricky Curran.
It took rangers just six minutes to take the lead. A neat through ball fed Chapman inside the Catsfield box who was through on goal only for the keeper to come out and clatter into the rangers man - penalty. Strong stepped up and despatched the spot kick with ease to get rangers off to an absolute flier.
It took rangers just a further six minutes to increase their lead with quite a sublime goal. Patient build up from the back four eventually found Chapman, Hardie and Green tearing through the Catsfield midfield and defence with some neat passing play. Hardie eventually released the overlapping Green down the flank whose first time cross was powered in by the head of Strong from ten yards out - a truly breathtaking team goal with a finish to match. 2-0 rangers.
Rangers were now in complete control of the game with the game being played at their own pace, on their terms. On 14 minutes, relentless rangers bagged a third goal. Sullivan was chopped down out on the rangers left in a quite appalling challenge. Strong swung in a superb ball which saw Chapman rise the highest to head home his first goal of the season. 3-0. This got a bit too much for the Catsfield skipper who had an altercation with his own player which proceeded to disrupt the flow of the game for a few minutes as well as the focus of the rangers players.
After settling down, rangers continued to look for more goals but being three goals up so quickly was almost their undoing as the red and blacks looked to force play too early at times with many balls going astray a little too easily. Rangers suffered a blow on the half hour when Derese took a knock in yet another poor Catsfield challenge, with Derese not even earning his team a free kick for his troubles. Being three goals up the management team made the sensible decision to withdraw the influential Belgian with the next game in mind, which saw Reeves move to centre half and Waters coming on in central midfield.
This slight reshuffle saw rangers lose their flow momentarily but normal service was resumed on 35 minutes when Strong rifled in from long range for his hatrick after more good build up down the right, Waters supplying the pass to the rangers hitman, to make it 4-0. Rangers weren't quite done there though and neither was Strong who tormented Catsfield all afternoon. More neat build play around the Catsfield box saw Chapman guide the ball to Strong with his head who volleyed an unstoppable shot past the despairing keeper - 5 goals in 38 minutes for rangers, 4 for Strong- an irrepressible start by the red and blacks who showed their hunger and determination could not be matched in the opening forty five minutes. It could have been more though only for the Catsfield keeper pulling off a superb save from a Jesson curler which looked destined for the top corner.
At half time, the management team were delighted but ensured the players were aware not to force play too quickly when in possession as it was rangers neat passing game that was ripping the opposition to shreds. The rangers side were also reminded to keep their discipline which would undoubtably be the biggest challenge against a side that had decided to vent their frustration on rangers in practically every tackle.
The second half saw rangers take a while to get into their stride with the away team seemingly having a reshuffle at half time which some would say came a little to late. That being said , the red and blacks continued to looked composed and comfortable in possession playing out from the back with considerable ease. Ten minutes into the half Catsfleld were reduced to ten men when their skipper raked through the back of Strong on the half way line - a needless and silly challenge at any standard. Despite the perpetrator protesting his innocence, the referee looked to have got his decision spot on based on the state of Strong's leg at full time.
Tempers continued to flair with the away team seemingly not interested in football any longer. Barber took a nasty elbow to his throat, which again was unseen by the referee, and with the temperature rising, this resulted in Barber making way for Anderson. Shortly after Kyte replaced Sullivan who had been a menace all afternoon.
Rangers had further chances to extend their lead further through Jesson and Hardie who both found themselves in good positions in the box but turned down good shooting opportunities. Green also had a forage into the Catsfield box with his dink sliding just marginally over the bar. A sixth goal was added with 11 minutes left on the clock. Chapman threaded a ball through the Catsfield defence which found Strong in acres of space after breaking the offside trap. With the keeper closing him down, Strong coolly rounded the Catsfield stopper and slotted the ball home from a tight angle despite a despairing slide from the defender on the goal line. 6-0.
In the dying minutes of the game Waters picked out a run from Jesson on half way. The rangers man burst into the box and fired straight at the keeper only for that man Strong (who had made up a lot of ground) to slam home the rebound to secure the clubs first ever double hatrick. 7-0 to the irrepressible rangers.
The full time whistle followed shortly after and without any doubt every rangers player should be very pleased with themselves. Rangers controlled the game from start to finish and after the first goal was scored the result never looked in any doubt. This was a superb display of dominant, patient football although a ever, there are always things to be worked on.
Coach Dale Hendy was very pleased with the teams display, "This was a professional display with the game being controlled by us from start to finish with some superb goals of high quality".
Skipper Dave Bennett-Tomlin was a rock at the heart of the rangers defence with Reeves also superb even when moving to centre half. Chapman was instrumental all afternoon too with a goal and three assists but the undoubted man of the match was awarded to Jamie Strong- six goals and an assist which sees him already the divisions leading scorer after just one game.
The management team would like to express their gratitude to Ricky Curran who was an unused substitute for the game.
This was truly a great start for rangers but next week sees a very tough test in local rivals Herstmonceux who visit the sports park also in good form. Rangers will have to put on a similar display if they are to secure another three points which surely must be the target.
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...