Easbourne Rangers crashed out of the Sussex FA Junior Cup to ESFL division threes Burwash in a torrid display at Swan Meadow. In what seems to be a constant battle to assemble a squad on a week to week basis, rangers were missing nine players with Greg Manton, Carl Kenward, Jack Findon, Dan Chapman, Connor Sullivan, Remareo Tapper, Tony Derese, Steve Green and latest signing Mark Warren all missing for reasons from injury to moving house. This left rangers with just 13 players available, several of which had kindly agreed to step away from their usual place of business, the current all conquering Mid Sussex team. This in turn left the Mid Sussex team with 13 players, fortunately this didn't effect their recent run of excellent form.
The team assigned to deal in what was always going to be tricky affair at Burwash saw ever present Martin Bell in goal with a new look back four of Brad Meridith, Kyle Daines, Dean Pugh and Rory Newby, with only the latter having featured heavily for the ESFL team this season. Rangers were however able to field a strong midfield with Matt Wheeler on the right wing and Dylan Nanack handed his first ESFL start. Skipper Ben Jesson was partnered by the experience Lee Chapman in the rangers engine room while in form striker Dan Wilkes was partnered up front by the returning Jamie Strong. Sean Hardie and Luke Regan were the rangers substitutes.
With the game sure to be dictated by the conditions, the home side won the toss end ensured rangers had to shoot down the slope, and with the wind, for the opening 45 minutes. Rangers were given clear instruction to shoot from distance in what was to be a difficult day for goalkeepers. Rangers actually had the ball on the net within two minutes when Strong hammered home from close range, but in what seemed to be an eternity, the linesman's flag was raised for a dubious offside decision which kept the score at 0-0. With the playing surface in the condition it was in, it was difficult for both sides to play good passing football, although both had their moments. Rangers, however, lacked faith in their own ability on the unpredictable surface and failed to move the ball quickly enough through to the attacking third. Nanuck was a threat early on and turned the full back inside out with some mazey runs, but it was Nanuck who was involved in the opening goal of the game which went the way of the home side. The home right winger jinked into the box which saw Nanuck naively go to ground. Over went the home winger and a penalty was awarded - a steep learning curve for the rangers youngster. Up stepped the Burwash number 9 who calmly tucked the ball away down to Bells right. 1-0.
A few minutes later, the same Burwash winger was put through by a defence splitting ball. Bell was quick off his line, but rather than stay on his feet after tapping the ball past Bell, the Burwash man went down in the box. The ball had raced out of play, and had the referee been fooled, this could have seen Bell sent off. Fortunately, this didn't happen which posed the question... Why was there not a card issued for simulation?
Rangers still hadn't really got going, and a combination of poor decision making at key times and extremely sloppy passing was increasingly bemusing the rangers management. Wilkes pace up front was always a threat but the rangers man wasn't quiet able to time his runs frequently enough, with the home defence holding a solid line. Rangers also found the home keeper in exceptional form when on two occasions he raced off his line to close down and save at the feet of rangers players bearing down on goal. Despite a poor opening half an hour from rangers, they did find themselves level on 35 minutes and it was the pace of Wilkes that did the damage. Wilkes chased down a ball on the right hand side, burst into the box and squared a ball to Strong who had the simplest of tap-ins... And no chance of the linesman's flag denying him this time. 1-1 at half time.
With Burwash returning to the dressing room at the interval, rangers received a dressing down on the side of the pitch amongst the blustery conditions. Despite clear instruction, rangers had attempted just one long range effort from the boot of Strong which flashed wide of the Burwash goal. With Burwash seemingly overjoyed at the half time score, rangers knew they were in for a torrid time against the wind and the slope with tiring legs.
The story of the second half saw the keepers take centre stage. Bell made three top class saves and the home keeper was again alert and quick of his line on another two occasions to deny rangers taking the lead. Rangers had improved slightly on their first half performance with a few more passes being strung together but Burwash were always a threat with the direct approach towards the lively number nine up front. With 15 minutes to there was a major turning point in the game. Strong had made great headway down the rangers left and squared a ball to the on rushing Wilkes who was just 6 yards out. Wilkes seemed to get his footing all wrong and fired a first time shot wide of the post when it looked easier to score. Rangers then made a double change with Wheeler and Nanuck replaced by Hardie and Regan. From the Burwash goal kick, rangers found themselves in trouble in the defensive third. An initial shot was blocked but ricocheted to the feet of a grateful Burwash player who stabbed home past Bell to give the home side the lead.
Rangers now had it all to do, and with chances few and far between, it was hard to see where rangers could conjure up another goal from. The home side now not only had the lead, but also had the slope and wind in their favour. Rangers searched for the equaliser and almost had a penalty of their own when Chapman was brought down in the area, but the referee didn't agree with the frivolous appeals from those in red. A few minutes later, another huge penalty shout went unheard when Wilkes was chopped down, but again, no penalty given which pleased the ever increasing partisan crowd. Rangers couldn't find a way through and crashed out of their second cup in as many weeks.
On the day Burwash were worthy winners with the home side showing grit and determination throughout the entire side. Despite missing several players, rangers will still feel this was a missed opportunity. But failure to adapt to the conditions as well as Burwash and failure to execute a first half plan ultimately cost rangers the game. Also, several players that made the trip were clearly not 100% in the right frame of mind for the game, better commitment from some must be sought otherwise rangers will end up empty handed this season.
Congratulations to Burwash and good luck for the rest of the season.
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...