The rangers ESFL side faced a title defining trip to second placed Old Hastonians this week knowing that victory would put them 14 points clear at the top of the table and further maintaining there title credentials.
Two late withdrawals from the match-day squad left manager Marc McKay with more than one selection problem but the last minute inclusion of Connor Sullivan meant rangers travelled with almost a full squad with Sullivan joining Jamie Baker-Beall and the rangers manager on the bench. Martin Bell was looking to increase his impressive clean sheet tally in the rangers goal with Steve Green, Luke Barber and skipper Dave Bennett-Tomlin looking to aid Bells cause. In a last minute reshuffle, the ever dependable Dan Chapman slotted in at centre half to partner Bennett-Tomlin. Sean Hardie and Matt Wheeler week tasked with tormenting the Hastonian full backs while Ben Jesson was partnered by the towering Belgian Tony Derese in central midfield. Top scorer Jamie Strong was looking to add to his impressive league tally of 22 goals and he was partnered by Dan Wilkes up front.
Hastonians took the kick off and after stringing half a dozen neat passes together, it looked like rangers would be in for a tough afternoon. It became clear very early on that the pace of Wheeler and Green down the rangers right was going to cause problems for the home side for the duration of the game. It was no surprise that rangers took the lead via this route after just seven minutes after a ball was threaded through to Wheeler on the flank. He turned on the after burners, picked put Strong in the box with the ball inevitably ending up in the back of the Old Hastonians net. 1-0 rangers, a great start.
Rangers were keen to build on this lead especially as the opposition offered very little in terms of goal threat with Bell an onlooker for most of the half. Bennett-Tomlin and Chapman looked calm and assured at the back with Barber and Green good outlets for the centre backs and keeper Bell. In midfield, Derese and Jesson were superb against a midfield three who rarely looked like they were up against a numerical disadvantage. The work rate of the front four was also superb with the home side given no time on the ball, especially at the back. The league leaders should have increased their lead just moments before the break after Wilkes wriggled his way through into the box. Wilkes looked certain to pick out an unmarked Strong in the 12 yards out, but a cruel bobble saw his pass spoon up and and hit the cross bar with the ball going to safety.
At half time, rangers were very pleased with their efforts, 1-0 up away from home with rangers keeper Bell untroubled. The management team of McKay and Dale Hendy called for calm along with discipline and focus as well as offering some tactical insight.
Eleven minutes into the second half, rangers doubled their lead. Strong picked up the ball on the right hand side of the penalty area, waltzed thought several challenges and finished passed the home keeper with aplomb to set rangers well on their way to victory. 2-0, and rangers were cruising.
This saw the red and blacks make a double substitution with Sullivan and Baker-Beall replacing Wilkes and Hardie who had put in an excellent shift. Moments later, Jesson burst through into the box and was clearly fouled, but the referee failed to give a penalty. With 18 minutes to go, Strong, Jesson and Wheeler played keep ball from a rangers corner. With the home side clearly out of gas, Strong eventually fed the ball to Wheeler who found himself with some space 25 yards out on the left corner of the area. One touch saw the rangers wingman get the ball out of his feet with his second touch a curling dipping effort which crashed into the top corner of the net. 3-0 and surely game over.
A few minutes later, Sullivan found his way through on goal it could only pull his shot wide while Baker-Beall then had a huge case for a penalty, again the referee not in any position to make a decision. Strong was also put through on goal but his little dink was read by the keeper who stayed on his feet. Strong wasn't to be denied SIXTH hatrick of the season though as he raced through from a Sullivan pass with eight minutes left, this time coolly slotting past the onrushing keeper. 4-0.
This was an excellent all round team performance with everyone playing their part. The back four was solid yet again with Bell accomplished in all he did. The central pairing of Derese and Jesson were magnificent with Wheeler, Hardie, Wilkes and Strong all superb. The fresh legged substitutes also played their part with Sullivan and Baker-Beall also contributing to a solid all round performance. Strong was a contender (again) for the MOM but this week Tony Derese got the award after a physically strong and terrier-like performance in the rangers engine room.
This win sees rangers go an amazing 14 points clear at the top of the table. After three straight league wins in January, rangers welcome a week off this week but will be ready to face Herstmonceux and then Crowhurst in the first two weeks of next month.
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...