The opening day of the season finally arrived and our ESFL team faced a tricky first game at The JC Tackleway where rangers were on the wrong end of a 2-1 scoreline last season. Rangers handed competitive debuts to Rory Newby, Carl Kenward and Kirk Ferguson with the latter having to settle for a place on the bench next to Connor Sullivan and Dan Chapman.
Martin Bell was tasked with keeping a clean sheet, and the back four selected with helping him achieve this was Steve Green, newly appointed skipper Aaron Filsell along with Newby and Kenward. Tony Derese and vice captain Ben Jesson were placed in the heart of the rangers midfield with livewires Matt Wheeler and Sean Hardie positioned on the rangers wings. Last seasons top scorer Jamie Strong was partnered by the pacey Dan Wilkes along the rangers front line.
From early on it was clear to see that Hardie had the beating of the Tackleway fullback, seemingly at will, and up front the pace of Wilkes was a constant threat to the home sides experienced centre half. Rangers had started the opening exchanges sharply and had “set the tone” with some neat, passing football on what was a very difficult surface. Tackleway’s main threat was their number 9 on the break who had actually scored the two goals which succumbed rangers to defeat last season.
Rangers dominance eventually paid off on 19 minutes when Strong was slotted in down the right channel and his cross found the boot of the energetic Jesson who slammed the ball home first time past the impressive Tackleway shot stopper.
The double champions were keen to add to their tally and could have had a couple more goals only for the post and the crossbar to deny Strong and Jesson respectively. On the half hour Tackleway threatened when a ball was played through to their number 9. A foot race ensued with the long strides of Newby chasing down the dangerman, and just when it looked like the number 9 was going to pull the trigger, Newby put in a superb last ditch tackle which maintained rangers lead. Four minutes later the importance of that tackle was magnified even further when a wayward Tackleway back pass was intercepted by the irrepressible Wilkes. The home side were calling for offside (?) but Wilkes played to the whistle and beat the keeper at his near post to double rangers lead. 2-0.
Wilkes headed in for what was thought to be rangers third goal of the game on 39 minutes only for the referee unable to establish if the ball had actually crossed the line after a defender had cleared the ball. The Tackleway keeper was in great form and this was typified when he made a superb one handed stop from Hardie just before the break. At half time the score was 2-0 to rangers with all eleven having put in excellent performances. The talk at the interval was about how poor rangers had been in the second half of some preseason games with the rangers players keen not to let this occur in the first competitive game of the season.
The second half saw the home side come out with a more physical attitude with the number 9 in particular making some late challenges and the Tackleway centre midfielder fortunate not see a yellow card at the very least for a late, dangerous tackle on Derese. Rangers were not to be deterred though and on 51 minutes Wilkes linked up well with Wheeler on the right hand side which paved the way for Wilkes to glide into the box. He kept his cool and finished smartly across the keeper to notch his second, and rangers third of the game. This saw Ferguson replace Jesson who had put in a magnificent shift in the rangers engine room.
There was now a sense that the three points were secure, but on 62 minutes, a small child ran on to the pitch when Green was about to make a tackle on the home left winger. Play was rightly stopped, and rangers sportingly gave the ball back to Tackleway after a drop ball. But from the resulting attack, Tackleway were awarded a freekick 20 yards out, central to Bells goal. Despite the wall and rangers being set, the home number 9 curled the ball into the top corner past the helpless Bell which gave Tackleway renewed hope. 3-1.
The old saying goes you are at your most venerable when you have just scored, and this was found to be true much to the home sides disbelief. Just 2 minutes after Tackleway’s goal, some neat footwork from Ferguson on the edge of the box saw him pave the way to play a delicate chip to Hardie in the Tackleway box. Hardies shot was blocked but the ball fell kindly to Strong who rifled the ball into the net from 12 yards out to re-establish rangers 3 goal cushion.
Eight minutes later, Sullivan replaced Strong who had had a very influential game up front. Rangers were now trying to keep the ball and did this effectively in the main, but to their credit Tackleway never gave up. They were further rewarded for their endeavour on 75 minutes when Green was beaten down rangers right hand side. The resulting shot from the home left winger was spilled by Bell in the rangers 6 yard which left the number 9 with the simplest of tap ins to again give JC some hope. 4-2.
But rangers were not to be denied and after mounting yet another attack on the Tackleway goal, the ball was half cleared to Sullivan who was lurking on the edge of the area. His first time left footed strike left the keeper completely stranded and this saw rangers leading 5-2 with just 12 minutes to go. With just moments remaining, Chapman replaced Green.
Rangers mounted one final attack on the break which saw Wilkes, who was on a hatrick, bear down on goal. Remarkably, Chapman had raced up the pitch and was screaming for the ball to be squared up. Caught in two minds, Wilkes eventually only managed a tame effort on goal – the highlight of the attack was now watching Chapman having to run the whole length of the pitch to the right back position!
The final score was 5-2 and this was richly deserved for a squad of players who gave their all. Jesson, Hardie and Wilkes were particularly impressive with Wilkes being named the “Seaside Café” man of the match – 2 goals matched with great energy and work rate. A great way to start the season with a win and rangers first home game of the season is on Saturday 12th September at the sports park on the 3G in a 3pm kick off against Wadhurst United who did not have a game on the opening day of the season
Another 3 points is a MUST.
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...