Eastbourne Rangers travelled to East Sussex premier league outfit Hooe Sports FC on Saturday in what was hoped were be a stern test for the Division 2 new boys. After a well earned 1-1 draw with neighbours Langney Wanderers with a severely depleted squad 7 days previous, the red and blacks welcomed back club stalwart Dan Harmer, and striker Glen Noble to the squad. Rangers were still with out club skipper Dave Bennett-Tomlin, midfielder Jules Waters and winger Josh Kyte while Chris Ward, Stuart Potter and Mark Hymans were also unavailable for the trip to Hooe Rec.
Rangers lined up with Martin Bell in goal while Tom Tribe partnered Mike Pickard at centre half for the second game in succession. Dan Chapman and Ricky Curran were given the nod as the rangers full backs while Lee Chapman was given the armband and was partnered by Conor Middleton in centre midfield. Glen Noble and Rob Anderson added pace to the rangers wings while Ben Jesson paired up with the ever keen Conor Sullivan up front. This left Harmer and Luke Davies on the bench.
With the pitch huge in size, rangers hoped to stretch their opponents and use the wings wherever possible while at the same time it was hoped rangers could dominate possession ensuring they could dictate the pace of the game.
The triple champions got off to a flier and took the lead through a Rob Anderson strike as his pace saw him latch on to a measured pass which Anderson dispatched calmly into the net. Hooe had barely touched the ball leading up to the goal, and with 3 minutes gone on the clock, was this a sign of things to come for the home side? Rangers continued to probe the Hooe midfield and back four with some neat football with both wingers finding themselves in acres of space while the front two were able to stretch the Hooe defence at any given opportunity. Rangers doubled their lead with 16 minutes on the clock when a Sullivan pull pack was inadvertently passed by a defender to Jesson, who almost looked embarrassed as the ball found its way on to his foot and into the back of the net with the keeper stranded. 2-0.
Anderson and Noble continued to torment their full backs while Jesson and Sullivan led from the front closing down the opposition at every chance given. Tribe looked assured at the back alongside Pickard while Lee Chapman and Middleton bossed the midfield. Dan Chapman and Curran were rarely troubled at full back and with Bell giving quick service to the rangers back line, the red and blacks were able to build from deep inside their own half and attack when the time was right. One such instance occurred when a patient build up released Sullivan through the channel between right back and centre half. Sullivan looked to have got away but the defender recovered to goal side. But a little drop of the shoulder and a devastating low drive from 20 yards saw Sullivan extend rangers lead to 3-0.
Rangers continued to dictate in all areas of the pitch and although Hooe were clearly not at their strongest, rangers continued to be professional and maintained their style of play. Anderson notched up another goal just before half time after a cross from the rangers left saw Anderson make no mistake with a tap in at the far post. Half time and rangers were maybe unexpectedly four goals up. Much praise was heaped on the players at the interval as Hooe clearly had no answer to rangers in any aspect of the game. Some half time changes saw Davies replace the lively Anderson which led to a slight reshuffle while Harmer came on for Pickard at centre half.
These changes did not affect rangers initially but there was a period in the second half where rangers were trying to force chances to quickly rather than biding their time with patient, build up football. Jesson added another two goals to his tally which included a penalty after Sullivan was upended in the Hooe box while further efforts from Lee Chapman, Davies, Noble (2) and a 20 yard thunderbolt (which found its way into the top corner) from Curran sealed a comprehensive rangers display. Far too much detail to remember how all of these goals were constructed unfortunately. Final s score 11=0.
A fabulous rangers display, a professional display. And even though the opposition were clearly not the team they used to be, you can only beat what's put front of you. A clean sheet is always pleasing but to be fair keeper Bell's biggest form of action was claiming a couple of crosses which he did with assured ease. Promising displays all round but to put things into context, Hooe do not look like a team that should be in the premier division of the East Sussex league. It is quite possible, of course, that they had many players unavailable which seems to be the way things are going for most teams during preseason.
Rangers final preseason game is on Wednesdsy night against Willingdon Reserves. Last year saw the two sides play out an entertaining 3-3 draw at Huggetts Lane. Rangers will be looking to improve on that this time round.
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...