Willingdon Reserves 2-2 Eastbourne Rangers
21st August 2013
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Eastbourne Rangers made the trip to Huggetts Lane to face Willingdon Reserves with the entertaining 3-3 draw the two sides played out last year in preseason still relatively fresh in everyone's minds. Rangers made the trip without injured duo Jules Waters and Chris Ward while skipper and vice skipper Dave Bennett-Tomlin and Dan Harmer were on holiday and at The Kia Oval for the cricket, respectively.

Rangers were also missing Josh Kyte through work commitments so rangers settled with taking a squad of 13 to the game. Keeper Martin Bell was looking to secure his third clean sheet of preseason and tasked to help him with this cause was Ricky Curran, Mike Pickard, Tom Tribe and Dan Chapman who made up the rangers back four.

Glen Noble and Connor Sullivan added pace to the rangers wings while stand in skipper Lee Chapman was partnered with Rob Anderson in centre midfield. Luke Davies had an extremely late wake up call to make it to the game just in the nick of time and he was paired with hitman Ben Jesson up front. This left Conor Middleton and Mark Hymans on the bench. 

Rangers took the lead within 2 minutes when a deep Curran freekick from the right found Pickard rising highest at the back post who expertly headed past the home keeper. 1-0 rangers. 
With both sides trying to play a passing game, the work rate of the two teams was bound to be important. The home side shaded the early exchanges from a possession point of view, however the threat of Noble on the rangers left was a danger that the dons had to monitor closely. Willingdon looked a danger from set pieces and keeper Bell was called upon on more than one occasion to keep rangers in the driving seat. With 20 minutes on the clock, Middleton replaced Anderson and Hymans replacesd Curran in two straight swaps.
On the half hour, Willingdon found themselves level after rangers (rightly) tried to play themselves out of trouble in their own box only for keeper Bell unable to deal with a difficult back pass. The result was an easy tap in for the Willingdon striker, who had worked hard to press the rangers back line. 1-1.
Asthe half wore on, rangers did not seem switched on at throw-ins or from open play at times. In fact, rangers were caught napping from a Willingdon throw and were fortunate enough to see the resulting shot skewer high and wide over the rangers bar. Rangers continued to look threatening on the flanks with Noble a continuous outlet, when he was given the ball. However, a combination of rangers not moving the ball quick enough and some good Willingdon pressing often saw Noble stranded out on his wing.
At half time, Anderson replaced Lee Chapman and Curran replaced Dan Chapman, again in like for like substitutions. With the management team not happy with the first half display, and the riot act read, rangers set about their business for the second forty-five minutes.
Rangers performance in the second half improved, and with the ball now finding its way out to both wings a little more freely, it was only a matter of time before rangers regained the lead. With Sullivan on the rangers right now becoming more involved in the and Noble on the left still chipping away, the red and blacks looked threatening down both channels but were now often found guilty of putting in poor final balls. At the other end, Willingdon played some neat football in midfield and around the rangers box without really threatening Bell in the rangers goal. On 62 minutes, Jesson drove at his marker into the Wilingdon box. With a little jink from Jesson, the dons defender tripped the rangers striker with the referee on the spot to award a penalty. Jesson stepped up and made no mistake by burying the ball in the bottom corner. 2-1 rangers.
Rangers came close to extending their lead 10 minutes later, this after a good period by the triple champions. The ball was eventually laid out to Curran 25 yards with the keeper only able to watch as the ball cannoned off the upright to safety. At the other end, Bell made two smart saves to maintain the rangers lead which shows that the ESFL side were not having it all their own way. With 15 minutes to go, Willingdon earned a penalty of their own which was duly converted despite Bell choosing the right way. 2-2.
Rangers still looked a threat in the final third with Jesson linking well with both wings and Davies through the middle. The latter had a chance when the keeper found himself stranded away from his goal only for Davies' lob marginally going over e bar. With 8 minutes to go, Davies was replaced by Dan Chapman which saw Sullivan partner Jesson up front with Chapman taking position on the right wing. Noble continued to have joy down the rangers left and a flowing move with 6 minutes to go almost sealed the victory. Neat movement of the ball found Noble in the channel, and despite the cross being bang on the money, the keeper made a comfortable save after a first time effort by a rangers striker.
Full time, with 2-2 probably a fair scoreline although rangers will feel the openings they created in the final third far outweighed that of their opponents. This was an excellent test for the red and blacks against a side who have a similar style. The biggest test however, is yet to come when rangers face Windsor FC in an intriguing opening day league fixture a week on Saturday. 
See you all there.
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Eastbourne Rangers FC

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...

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