Eastbourne Rangers stretched their long unbeaten run to eleven games with a convincing win against Sussex County Junior cup finalists Wadhurst United.
Rangers welcomed back several faces to the squad who missed the 5-0 victory against Ticehurst which included Lee Chapman, Connor Sullivan and Steve Green. This enabled the squad to be rotated which saw Matt Wheeler, Dan Wilkes and Connor Sullivan take their places on the Rangers bench. Green and Chapman were added to the back four to join Carl Kenward and Rory Newby with the ever present Martin Bell between the sticks. Skipper Ben Jesson also returned to the starting XI after a two week absence which saw him rekindle his partnership with Tony Derese in the centre of the park. Sean Hardie, who had recently been in good form, was given the nod on the right wing while Dylan Nanuck was restored to the starting line up on the left after being a substitute at Ticehurst. Jamie Strong returned to a more familiar role up front after two games in midfield and his strike partner was the experienced Mark Warren, who had also played a deeper role in previous games.
Rangers meandered into the game at a poor pace which allowed the visitors to create some early chances. United hit the Rangers bar after just 30 seconds with the United also wasting a golden opportunity when through one on one with Bell which saw the striker hit woefully over the bar. Slowly but surely Rangers came more into the game and on 16 minutes Jesson had a good chance saved by the Wadhurst keeper. There was nothing the Wadhurst number one could do about the opening goal of the game four minutes later in what was a classic Rangers sweeping move. The ball was quickly moved from Kenward at left back and through the thirds which eventually found Hardie on the right hand side. His cross found Strong on the right hand edge of the box and he finished well low into the far corner to give Rangers the lead, albeit against the run of play.
This saw the red and blacks start to turn the screw with Warren almost adding another just minutes later but his header from a Nanuck cross was put just wide. On the half hour though, Wadhurst hit back. Rangers were caught out of defensive position on the right hand side which allowed plenty of time for the Wadhurst striker to run through and dispatch his finish past Bell. 1-1 and game on!
This seemed to give the Rangers players a kick up the proverbial which saw them score two goals in quick succession. A superb freekick from the left boot of Kenward found Hardie six yards out and his header sailed over the keeper to restore Rangers lead. Three minutes later, Rangers took control of the game. A dazzling run by Nanuck on the wing left the Wadhurst defence for dead and his cross found Warren who tapped in from close range to give Rangers a 3-1 lead at half time. Rangers made a half time change with Wheeler replacing Green and this saw a slight reshuffle of the Rangers pack.
The second half saw Rangers turn on the style, literally straight from their kick off. The ball was worked back from central midfield to Newby at centre half. He found Chapman at right back who played the ball first time to Wheeler. His first time pass found Hardie who in turn played the ball to Warren, again first time. Warren was able to turn and release Wheeler down the right flank who's centre found Strong at the back post who gleefully applied the finishing touch to a quite sublime Rangers goal. This goal took just eight passes and 14 seconds to compile and all but sealed three precious league points. 4-1.
There was still plenty more quality to come though, and on 54 minutes, Hardie curled a sumptuous effort from 20 yards out to give Rangers a 5-1 lead. Six minutes later, Strong completed his second hatrick in as many weeks after Warren fed the in form striker 25 yards from goal. With the keeper off his line, Strong dispatched a tremendous chip over the helpless keeper to secure Rangers sixth goal of the afternoon.
Rangers were now dominating the game and confidence thorough-out the side was at its peak. This was compounded in the 64th minute when Nanuck scored what will surely be a goal of the season contender. The wing wizard picked up the ball and drove infield. Just as it appeared nothing was on, he thundered a 30 yard strike into the top corner of the net which left everyone dumbfounded - a truly superb individual effort. 7-1. Rangers then made a double change on 65 minutes with Sullivan and Wilkes replacing Strong and Warren.
With the game now dead and buried, and after all the drama of some quite thrilling goals, Rangers began to take their foot off the gas slightly. There was still time though for Rangers top scorer Wilkes to get in on the act. With 13 minutes last on the clock, he pick pocketed the ball from a United defender and finished coolly to secure his seventeenth goal of a so far impressive season.
8-1 was the way it finished, and after a sluggish opening 20 minutes where Rangers were poor, there was a lot to take from the remaining 70 minutes with some superb team and individual goals. There were some excellent performances with Hardie and Chapman superb, and although Strong secured a hatrick, the Seaside Cafe MOM was awarded to Dylan Nanack for a great display on the wing.
After other results in the league being favourable to the cause, four wins in the last four games will secure the league title for Rangers, with everything now in their own hands. A big April lies ahead starting with a trip to title hopefuls Old Hastonians on April 2nd. There's still a long way to go, so let's not count those Easter chickens just yet....
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...