After a receiving a bye in the first round, Eastbourne Rangers finally got their Sussex FA Junior Cup challenge underway against neighbours Grasshoppers Old Boys. After two late withdrawals from the squad, it was business as usual in the player availability stakes with no fewer than five players unavailable for the game.
Rangers were still fortunate enough to be able to field an extremely strong side though which saw the return of the experienced Greg Manton at the heart of the rangers defence which was the only change to the back five with keeper Martin Bell and defenders Steve Green, Carl Kenward and Rory Newby readily available after last weeks heroics against Battle Baptists. Rangers fielded a four man midfield with Tony Derese and skipper Ben Jesson in the thick of the action while Connor Sullivan returned to the starting XI on by he left hand side with the diminutive Matt Wheeler on the opposite flank. A order returnee got the nod up front in the shape of in form striker Dan Wilkes who was joined by the talented Sean Hardie. The rangers bench was made up of Anthony Allen and rangers manager Marc McKay.
Rangers fired out the blocks like a team possessed and opened the scoring after just six minutes. Derese won the ball in midfield and had the presence of mind to find the early run of Wilkes in between full back and centre half. Wilkes turned on the after burners and calmly slotted past the keeper to secure his eighth goal of the season.
Just three minutes later rangers doubled their lead when a Jesson cross found the head (!) of Wheeler at the back post, with the little man making no mistake applying a tidy finish into the corner of the net. On eleven minutes the tie was all but over after Wilkes poached his second of the game after Grasshoppers failed to clear a cross which had come from the rangers right hand side, 3-0 and rangers were cruising.
This blistering start saw rangers take their foot disappointingly of the gas and saw over confidence rife through the side which allowed Grasshoppers back into the game and ensured rangers didn't add to the scoreline before half time. 3-0 at the break.
A change in application and personal at half time saw Grasshoppers approach the second half with a different attitude but it took the red and blacks just fourteen minutes to add to their tally. Superb work in midfield saw Jesson slide a perfectly weighted ball thorough a crowd of bodies to the on-rushing Wheeler who had come in from the right flank berth. Wheeler evaded the attention of the Grasshoppers full back with a clean pair of heals and dispatched a clinical finish past the keeper to give rangers a four goal lead.
Thirteen minutes later Wheeler completed his hatrick. A quick throw from Hardie saw Wlikes flick the ball into Wheelers path twenty yards out. Again, Wheeler showed supreme pace, burst into the box and finished past the helpless keeper to give rangers a five goal cushion.
Not to be outdone, Wilkes notched up his third of the game five minutes from time. Jesson was supplier again after he found the run of Wilkes between the two Grasshopper central defenders. With the. Grasshoppers keeper having decided to come out, he misjudged the pace of Wilkes who toed the ball round the Grasshoppers number one and applied the easiest of tap-ins to completed a fully deserved hatrick. 6-0 rangers.
Two minutes from time Grasshoppers claimed a late consolation after rangers conceded a needless throw deep in their own half. The throw was fired in long with the Grasshoppers striker winning the flick at the near post which was met at the back post by his towering teammate who gleefully headed home. Final score 6-1 rangers.
Rangers played some great football at times, and with the side taking their foot off the gas for long periods, rangers still have plenty more to give in forthcoming games. A solid team performance made for a tricky decision regarding the MOM award with Jesson immense in the middle securing three assists and Wilkes a menace up front with a hatrick and an assist. But the Seaside Cafe MOM was awarded to Matt Wheeler - 3 goals and a constant thorn in the oppositions side.
In the next round rangers will face either Rottingdean Village II of the Brighton and Hove league or fellow ESFL outfit Burwash in an away tie.
Back to league action this week with an away trip to Ticehurst.
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...