Eastbourne Rangers ESFL team welcomed bottom club Northiam to the sports park 3G this week with the primary goal of securing all three points to enable them to open up an eleven point gap at the top of division two.
The strength and depth of this current rangers squad meant that the management team of Marc McKay and Dale Hendy could rotate the starting XI once again to ensure everybody got sufficient game time bearing in mind some were still recovering from the Christmas break. This saw the ever present Steve Green take a spot on the substitutes bench along with Lee Chapman and the in form Matt Wheeler. The changes to the starting line up saw Luke Barber come in for Green, Tony Derese replace Lee Chapman while Josh Flaherty and Connor Sullivan replaced Aaron Filsell and Matt Wheeler respectively.
Rangers got off to the perfect start just two minutes into the contest when Sullivan raced through onto a pass for a one on one with the keeper. Sullivan's lob looked liked a defender might clear the danger but Dan Wilkes was on hand to poke the ball home from four yards out, 1-0 rangers.
Wilkes was called into action ten minutes later, but this time at the other end of the pitch. Northiam countered attacked from a poor rangers corner and with the away sides front two combining well, it looked like a shot on goal would follow. But Wilkes had turned on the after burners to run the full length of the pitch to cut out the danger inside his own penalty box and make the challenge - superb work rate. Nine minutes later, Northiam were kicking themselves at the opportunity missed to equalise when a long pass from Sean Hardie found the run of Jamie Strong from half way. Strong's first touch saw the rangers top scorer race away from the attention of the Northiam centre half and with the keeper bearing down on him on the edge of the box, Strong coolly slotted the ball into the net to secure his twentieth league goal of the season. 2-0
Northiam did muster another chance on the rangers the goal, this time from a set piece of their own. A freekick was played into the rangers box, and with a Northiam six-footer about to rise the highest, keeper Bell rushed out bravely to fist the ball away to safety taking a nasty knock to the head in the process - courageous goalkeeping. Football is a game of fine margins and after this scare at the back, rangers once again pounced to extend their lead with a breathtaking pass and move goal. Ben Jesson drove at the heart of the Northiam midfield and after exchanging passes with a fellow ranger, Jesson found Sullivan on the edge of the away teams box. Sullivan's crisp, first time lay off found Strong seventeen yards out who curled a delicious finish into the bottom corner leaving the keeper with no chance. 3-0 and goal number twenty-one for Strong.
At half time the feeling was that rangers could only lose this game themselves by losing concentration. Fifteen minutes into the second half, Northiam disappointingly pulled a goal back. A long ball over the top of Dave Bennett-Tomlin eluded the rangers skipper which allowed the fresh faced Northiam striker to race away after a good first touch. His second touch matched that of his first, a tidy finish into the corner past the despairing Bell. 3-1 and game on.
Rangers were not to be deterred though, and on 66 minutes Strong completed his hatrick. Some neat passing down the rangers left eventually saw Wilkes cross to the rangers hitman who steadied himself with his first touch, dispatching the ball into the back of the net with his second. 4-1 rangers.
Rangers then made use of their reinforcements on the bench with Green replacing Barber while Wheeler replaced Wilkes and Derese was then replaced by Lee Chapman in the centre of midfield, the Belgians legs tiring after missing the last few games through injury. Rangers really put the game to bed on 77 minutes when rangers played some classic counter-attacking football. The Northiam defence was finally sliced open when Sullivan's incisive pass found Hardie who tucked the ball into the net with his left foot. 5-1 and that's the way it stayed.
An another efficient job by rangers who at times weren't quite at their best, and to concede a goal was of course disappointing. But the primary objective was met as rangers are now 11 points clear at the top of the table with closest rivals Old Hastonians playing catch up with three games in hand. The MOM was awarded to Jamie Strong who displayed some top class finishing, and it looks like he might be adding a little bit of work rate to his game too :-)
Next week is a truly massive game, an away trip to title contenders Old Hastonians. Let's hope for a positive result.
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...