Eastbourne Rangers faced a tough midweek game against title favourites Little Chelsea, where the red and blacks were looking to take something from the game. Rangers were able to select a strong squad with only Dan Harmer , Jules Waters and Ben Jesson unavailable along with long term injury victim Glen Noble and Mark Hymans. With other injury concerns and availability issues seemingly resolved, rangers were able to name a fifteen man squad. Martin Bell was charged with keeping the league leaders at bay along with a defensive line of Steve Green, Tony Derese, Rob Anderson and skipper, Dave Bennett-Tomlin. With Chapman brothers Lee and Dan returning from a weekend away, they were the preferred pairing in centre midfield. Chris Ward and Josh Kyte were tasked with providing width down the rangers flanks while in-form Connor Sullivan was paired with the impressive Jamie Strong. Rangers names four substitutes – with Mike Pickard, Tom Tribe, Ricky Curran and Sean Hardie taking a place on the rangers bench.
With instructions given to the squad pre-match, rangers were quietly confident of getting a result. From the kick off, the opposition clearly showed their experience with most of their players very cool and confident on the ball. After five minutes, the game settled down and Little Chelsea appeared to alter their starting formation to 4-3-3 which ensured both rangers full backs were restricted in their forays forward. The Chapman’s dealt with a strong Little Chelsea three in the middle of the park admirably, with the pair running themselves into the ground when rangers didn’t have the ball. After 10 minutes, the Little Chelsea number 7 made a poor challenge on a ranger 25 yards out, which saw rangers awarded a free kick and the culprit given a booking. Strong stepped up, and sent a fast dipping ball into the bottom corner past the despairing to give rangers a much needed lead. 1-0
Little Chelsea looked to respond immediately, and were a constant threat from set plays and long throws. On two occasions, rangers managed to scramble the ball clear after a Little Chelsea player had won near post flicks from a throw while midway through the half, Little Chelsea had a goal chalked off after a cut back from a Chelsea striker had already gone out of play. Chelsea’s main option was playing the ball into their big striker who looked to lay off or flick the ball to their quicker, more direct players. In the main, Bennett-Tomlin and Derese did a superb job at keeping the experienced campaigners contribution to a minimum.
On the half hour, a flowing move from left to right saw Little Chelsea equalise. The ball quickly found its way out to the overlapping right back, and with Kyte somehow left behind, the Chelsea man delivered a decent cross into the rangers box, which the unfortunate Anderson could only turn into his own net. 1-1.
The red and blacks were not deterred, and five minutes before half time, Green found Strong with a direct ball into the Little Chelsea area. Strong, who was in acres of space, had to wait an eternity for the ball to come down, and with the keeper already preparing to come out, Strong’s touch uncharacteristically let him down with the ball trickling out of play. At the other end Rangers could have found themselves behind just moments later but a smart save from Bell at his near post ensured rangers went in level at the interval. Drinks and words were taken on board, and the feeling was rangers could definitely get something from the game.
From the restart, the opposition started the brightest. An almost needless corner was given away just a few minutes into the second period, and although the original corner was dealt with, disaster soon followed. The ball was cleared but only as far as the corner taker. With the Little Chelsea man under no pressure, he was able to look up and pick out an unmarked teammate at the back post who stole in and made no mistake in giving the home side a headed lead. 1-2.
Despite having the stuffing knocked out of them, rangers still believed and the next 7 minutes of play showed great endeavour without any clear cut chances being made. With only one goal in it, rangers were always in with a shout. But on 59 minutes, further disaster! A quick throw from Green back to keeper Bell saw the rangers number 1 scuff his clearance to a Little Chelsea striker who gleefully tucked the ball away from distance into an empty rangers net. 1-3 and rangers were now really up against it.
Rangers though, still believed and on 68 minutes nearly reduced the deficit. A cross from Strong was deflected, but deflected on to the Little Chelsea bar much to the despair of the rangers platers. Sullivan continued to work hard up front but was at times too isolated. Sullivan looked to be rangers best option of getting into the game with the rangers mans pace a constant thorn in the sides of the Little Chelsea defenders. However, a combination of clever defending and poor decision making often saw rangers chances amount to nothing. On 72 minutes, rangers made their first change which saw Hardie replace the tiring Lee Chapman in midfield. Moments after, Kyte outstripped his full back and got to the by line only for his cross to be cut out by a Chelsea centre half on what was another promising rangers attack.
With 15 minutes left on the clock, rangers made their last role of the dice. Tribe and Pickard replaced Ward and Anderson which saw a change in formation for rangers as well as a tinkering of individual player positions. The two subs joined Bennett-Tomlin as a back three with Derese joining Chapmam in midfield which saw Hardie move up front with Strong and Sullivan. This also saw Green move up to right wing. The move paid dividends almost immediately when a Hardie back heel in the box found an on rushing Green who poked the ball gleefully home to give rangers some hope with 10 minutes left on the clock. 2-3.
Rangers were now a more attacking threat with the Chelsea back line finding it hard to contain the extra man. That extra man was Hardie who had a glorious chance to equalise from deep inside the opposition’s box, but found himself caught in two minds (whether to cross or shoot) which inevitably ended up in the grateful arms of the keeper. Moments later, a neat spin by the rangers man secured Hardie some space inside the box just six yards out, but a covering defender managed to mop up the pieces. Rangers continued to press, and with the Little Chelsea players calling for the final whistle with 5 minutes still left on the clock, it was clear they saw rangers as a threat. The prayers of the Chelsea players were eventually answered and rangers found themselves on the wrong end of a result when maybe they deserved a little bit more.
Lots of positives can be taken from this game, but yet again, missed chances and poor defending has seen the red and blacks come away empty handed. The MOM was awarded to Tony Derese who was outstanding in both positions he was asked to play in – let’s hope he will be a ranger for years to come.
The management team would like to thank Ricky Curran, who was an used substitute but still offered his support at the game to the team. Top effort Rick.
Next up for rangers is a tough trip to rivals Herstmonceux. Rangers are fast running out of games, but a win should see division 2 football secured for next season.
See you all there.
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...