Rangers welcomed division two counterparts Wittersham to the sports park this week in the quarter final of the Wisden Sports Challenge Cup. After last weeks record breaking tenth straight victory rangers were not only keen to make it to their second semi final of the season but also wanted to prolong this club record winning streak even further.
Martin Bell lined up in the rangers goal with full back regulars Steve Green and Luke Barber given the nod at right and left back respectively. Skipper Dave Bennett-Tomlin was partnered by last weeks debutant Josh Flaherty at the heart of the rangers defence which saw Aaron Filsell continue in centre midfield after earning the MOM award in the same position last time out. Filsell was joined by the returning Lee Chapman in the middle with Connor Sullivan and Matty Wheeler providing the pace and the width of the rangers flanks. Jamie Baker-Beall was partnered up front by Ben Jesson who was also returning to the squad while rangers boasted a strong bench of Dan Chapman, Sean Hardie and Jamie Strong.
After a delayed kick off due to the visitors failing to arrive on time, the game finally got started 10 minutes later than scheduled on the glorious sports park 3G playing surface. Rangers started a little slowly and took a while to settle down, but once they did they took control of the game to a certain degree. Rangers broke the deadlock on 18 minutes. Chapman received a throw from Barber with the former accelerating through the gears to breach the Wittersham midfield. He found the run of Wheeler who found space in the channel, and after turning on the after burners, Wheeler coolly finished past the keeper to give rangers the lead. 1-0. Shortly after Hardie replaced the injured Baker-Beall which saw Sullivan join Jesson up front.
Nine minutes after the opening goal rangers doubled their lead with some breathtaking football. A quick, short freekick was taken by Flaherty who found Barber on the left. Wheeler, Jesson and Chapman were also involved in a free flowing move which eventually saw Wheeler cut the ball back to the on rushing Sullivan who placed his shot smartly into the bottom corner from 16 yards. 2-0.
Sullivan almost got on the score sheet again five minutes before the break but Wittersham were saved by the foot of the post. At half time the management team were happy but knew 2 goals wasn’t enough and that rangers had to step up through the gears to seal the win.
On 59 minutes rangers thought they had all but finished the game off with some more delightful football. Jesson played a one-two with Hardie in the Wittersham area which saw Jesson pull the ball back to Wheeler who finished emphatically into the top corner of the net. 3-0.
The game wasn’t quite over though as Wittersham hit back. A cross from the rangers left was not dealt with by the rangers back line which saw a gleeful Wittersham forward smash the ball home to give the away side some glimmer of hope. 3-1.
This gave Wittersham some impetuous and rangers looked nervous for around 5 minutes with several passes going astray and this was combined with frustration creeping in. Wheeler had two further chances to increase rangers lead but the woodwork and the keeper kept Wittersham in the game for a little bit longer. As ever though, Wittersham were their own worst enemies as Hardie burst into the box and was chopped down by the Wittersham defender. Sullivan was the man who eventually stepped up, and despite a good effort by the keeper, Sullivan rifled the ball into the bottom corner for 4-1.
This saw rangers make a double change with Dan Chapman replacing brother Lee while Jamie Strong came on for Wheeler which saw Sullivan move back to the wing. Again, rangers thought a three goal cushion would be enough but Wittersham hit back to leave the result in some doubt. Rangers gave the ball away on half way to an away midfielder, and after looking up to see Bell of his line, the Wittersham player ballooned the ball over Bell from just 5 yards inside is own half to make the score 4-2… breathtaking.
This gave Wittersham some renewed hope for a few more minutes but rangers finally managed to put the game to bed with 6 minutes left. Strong beat his man down the right who found Hardie at the back post with the rangers man dispatching his shot into the roof of the net. 5-2 and that’s the way the game finished.
This was a steady rangers performance with some of the goals showing what is soon becoming the familiar rangers “sparkle.” It’s also fair to say rangers had more to give it needed as at times they only seemed to be in third gear. Nonetheless, a second semi final has been reached before the Christmas break and everybody involved should feel very proud. Bexhill AAC I of division one await in the semi final of this cup which will be played some time after Christmas.
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...