After coming out on the winning end of a very bruising cup semi final, Rangers had to put all thoughts of the cup final to one side and focus on league survival as they took the long trip to Wadhurst. It was a depleted squad that travelled up to the Kent border due to injuries and unavailability. Those missing included long term injury victims Glen Noble and Mark Hymans, as well as Rob Anderson who was still struggling with the injury picked up in training the week before. Those who were unavailable included club captain Dave Bennett-Tomlin, Dan Harmer, Josh Kyte and Sean Hardie. This left Tom Tribe, who hadn’t fully recovered from the injury that saw him come off early in the cup semi final, as the only sub. An emergency call was sent out to retired keeper and Rangers veteran Grant Smith who agreed to come along and be a sub just in case. This left a starting 11 of Martin Bell in goal, Steve Green & Ricky Curran at full back with Mike Pickard & Andrea Chiesa at centreback. In midfield Chris Ward & Connor Sullivan took up the wide positions, with Julian Waters & Dan Chapman in the middle and Lee Chapman taking up a more advanced attacking midfield role. This left Ben Jesson to plough a lone furrow up front on his own. After drawing 2-2 with Wadhurst in the home fixture and being unfortunate not to win the game, the red & blacks were hoping for a bit more luck in this game.
With the pre-match formalities taken care of, the game got underway. The gaffer had urged the starting 11 to avoid making a sluggish start and they had obviously taken this on board, as everybody in red & black was into their stride straight away. With the extra man in midfield Rangers were dictating play and were looking dangerous with the pace of Sullivan and Green down the wings. The back four were dealing well with any Wadhurst attacks, with Chiesa and Curran particularly to the fore. The red & blacks almost opened the scoring after 10 minutes through Green who picked up the ball in his own half and exchanged passes with Ward before going on a barnstorming run into the opposition box. He then fired in a shot that looked destined for the back of the net until a last ditch block by a defender saw the ball just get diverted wide for a corner. Rangers continued to have more of the game, although Wadhurst were looking dangerous on the break, even forcing Bell into a fingertip save at full stretch on one occasion. Green almost made the breakthrough again with a virtual carbon copy of his earlier run. This time his shot went just agonisingly wide of the far post with the keeper beaten. As the half wore on Wadhurst were getting more and more frustrated as they were struggling to get a foothold in the game. Rangers were then denied a nailed on penalty when Jesson went on a mazy run, beat a couple of defenders and burst into the box. But as he was about to pull the trigger he was brought down from behind, a blatant foul and with the red & blacks and even seemingly the Wadhurst players expecting a penalty to be awarded, there was amazement when the referee waved play on. Not only a penalty denied, but there was also a strong case for a red card if the foul had been given, as it was an obvious goal scoring opportunity. Maybe this was on the referee’s mind when he made the decision. Jesson also had possibly Rangers best chance of the halfnot long after. The red & blacks won a free kick about 30 yards out which Curran floated into the box, where it found Jesson in space about 6 yards out by the back post. However his shot was straight at the keeper who was able to make the save. As the half drew to a close, Rangers had one last chance. This time it was from a corner which found Lee Chapman at the back post, but he was only able to put his header wide when well placed. As the half time whistle went, the red & blacks could reflect on a good half where they had been well on top, the only negative being them not taking their chances and going in with the game scoreless when they deserved to be two or three goals up. The gaffer urged all the players to keep playing like they were and to continue working hard, as the game was there for the winning.
The red & blacks were expecting a response from Wadhurst in the 2nd half, and to begin with this is what they got as a period of sustained pressure saw Rangers struggling to get out of their own half for a while. A series of corners and several scrambles in the red & blacks box saw Wadhurst come close to opening the scoring, but Rangers stayed solid and managed to deal with everything that was thrown at them. Having weathered the storm, the red & blacks started to come more and more into the game again, principally through the runs of Green who was terrorising his opposing full back. On a couple of occasions he played great balls into the box which didn’t quite find somebody in a red shirt to apply the finish. Sullivan also got in on the act, cutting in from the other flank to unleash a powerful shot that just went wide. The Wadhurst keeper was also starting to look shaky, on one occasion just managing to scuff a shot away with his feet when it seemed easier to use his hands. What was possibly the pivotal moment of the game came when Green made another scorching run from deep. He beat two players before taking the ball past the final defender who was well beaten, Green was as good as through on goal and would have been odds on to score. However with absolutely no chance of getting the ball the defender, who had already been booked for taking out Chiesa and was fortunate not to already be off after clattering Lee Chapman before that, blatantly body checked Green knocking him over. The referee awarded a free kick, but inexplicably decided not to issue a 2nd yellow card, even though he informed the Wadhurst player that he should be sent off. Not long after this as if to double the injustice, there was a hammer blow for Rangers, as from a corner Bell and Pickard both went for the ball seemingly blocking each other which allowed a Wadhurst player a free header into the back of the net. The relief from the Wadhust players was very evident, as was the frustration of the red & blacks. To their credit the Rangers players didn’t let their heads drop, and kept pushing hard for an equaliser for the 10 remaining minutes. Several half chances came and went and there were a couple of scrambles in the Wadhurst box, but Rangers couldn’t create any clear cut chances as Wadhurst were happy to sit deep and get numbers behind the ball now. It was obvious that the football gods were not going to be on Rangers side in this game. When the final whistle was blown, all the players in red shirts were gutted not to have got the result they deserved, but they couldn’t be faulted for the effort and hard work they had put in.
There was no doubt that Rangers had deserved much more from the game, with even the Wadhurst manager andsome of their supporters saying that they got lucky, and that the better team lost. But football can be a cruel mistress sometimes, and Rangers have to take the positives from this game, of which there were many, and take confidence from the excellent performance. This will certainly be needed for the next game, which is a huge ‘6 pointer’ away against relegation rivals Crowhurst. Another performance like this would surely see 3 points coming back to Eastbourne.
Man of the match: Steven Green – an outstanding performance in defence and attack, and was a threat all game. He was very unlucky not to top off the performance with a goal or two as well.
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...