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12/13 Match Reports

9th March
Herstmonceux II 0 v 2 Eastbourne Rangers
Christian Ward 5'
Glen Noble 48'

After the previous weeks disappointing, frustrating and extremely unlucky loss to Eastbourne Athletic, the Rangers squad and management were very keen to get back into action and try to put things right as soon as possible. It was guaranteed that nothing would get Rangers fired up more than a clash against old rivals Herstmonceux. The red & blacks were also hungry for revenge after losing at home to Ceux early on in the season. As if this wasn’t enough, the game held extra significance, due to the fact that a win would mean Rangers keeping their league championship fate in their own hands. If the three points were earned then the red & blacks would still be in the favourable position where if they won all their remaining games then no other team could catch them. But any points lost would leave Rangers depending on the other teams around them dropping points. There is obviously a lot of football still to be played before the end of the season, but it is always better to have control of your own destiny.

After heavy rain for two days before the game, there were some doubts as to whether the game would go ahead. With the already large fixture backlog, it was a relief when the news came through from Herstmonceux that the pitch was ok and the game was on. Credit must go the people behind the scenes at Ceux who had obviously worked hard to get the pitch playable. All things considered the pitch was in remarkably good condition. Going into the second of back to back games against fellow title challenging teams, Rangers knew that they would be facing a tough task as Herstmonceux are a strong side, and had been on a good run. Plus with their 3rd team’s game being called off, Ceux would have extra reinforcements to call upon if needed. The task became even tougher as the red & blacks found themselves going into what was a really big game with just a bare 11 players. Amongst the players missing were club captain and man of the match from the previous week Dave Bennett-Tomlin who was away on a lads weekend. Also absent were club regulars Rob Anderson who was off snowboarding, Ricky Curran who was on a coaching course, Mark Hymans due to injury and Stuart Potter who had to pull out on the morning of the game due to illness. New signing James McGrath had answered the plea from Eastbourne Town reserves to help out with their relegation battle. It was therefore a relief to be able to welcome back the attacking talents of Glen Noble and Christian Ward who had both missed the previous two games.

So the Rangers team that would have to start and finish the game was the ever present Grant Smith taking his usual place between the sticks, Tom Tribe and Ryan Webb making a little and large combination at right back and left back respectively, and regular centre back partners Dan Harmer & Mike Pickard. In midfield Christian Ward slotted straight back in on the right, while Josh Kyte was given licence to roam down the left flank, in the middle of the park wise old campaigner Jules Waters was teamed up with youngster Conor Middleton. Up front top scorer Ben Jesson was reunited with fellow golden boot chaser Glen Noble. With assistant manager Robbo also missing in action as he was learning new ways to torture the Rangers squad at training, gaffer Nick Stevenson was able to hog the limelight as he got the warriors in white ready for action. The focus was placed on the fact that this game would be very different to the previous week’s encounter as like Rangers, Herstmonceux like to play a fast pacy attacking style of football. Because of this the gaffer made it clear that he wanted to play a pressing game, get men behind the ball to soak up any pressure from Ceux and then hit them on the break with pace whenever possible. With no subs to provide fresh legs, the gaffer also made clear that it would take 90 minutes of sheer hard work and total commitment from all 11 players in order for the red & blacks to get the win. With the team fully briefed, it was time for the talking to stop and the action to begin.

Once the game got underway, it was Rangers who started quickest, as they attacked with pace and purpose. The Ceux players were chasing shadows as the red & blacks were zipping the ball round and switching the point of attack quickly. Anytime the men in green had the ball it was won back quickly and another attack was launched. It didn’t take long for Rangers to get the reward for their great start with just over 5 minutes on the clock. A great ball was played by Jules in behind the advancing right back and Josh turned on the after burners to win the foot race and pull the ball back from the byline. It fell to Ben in the box, but as he was being closed down he unselfishly helped the ball onto Chris who was in space on the right hand edge of the box. With a drop of the shoulder he cut inside and curled a shot towards the bottom far corner of the net, the keeper did get his fingers to it, but couldn’t stop the ball rolling in. An early goal was just what Rangers needed, and the 1-0 lead was certainly deserved. Rangers came close to extending their league on two occasions shortly after the goal, as they looked to profit from their pressure. However the goal seemed to wake Ceux up, as they started to come more and more into the game. With their extra man in midfield they were starting to get more possession and find more space around the pitch. Rangers found themselves on the back foot as Ceux were applying some sustained pressure in the final third. They were looking particularly dangerous down the wings, especially on the left where Tribe and Chris often found themselves outnumbered. Corners and free kicks into the box were also causing Rangers problems due mainly to the presence of their very tall centre back, who even the usually aerially dominant Mike was struggling to deal with. Grant was forced to make two excellent saves to tip headers from set pieces over the bar, while Josh also had to make two goal line clearances, one from a set piece and one from open play in order to preserve Rangers lead. Despite Ceux having the majority of the play, the red & blacks looked a constant threat on the break, especially down the left with Josh and when the ball was played up to Ben or Glen to run at their back four. Several good chances were created on the break, the best of which was when Josh ran onto a ball through the middle and found himself one on one with the keeper, but just as he was about to pull the trigger the quick right back managed to get back and make a very good covering tackle. As if to sum up the first half, the last action before half time saw their tall centre back head over from a corner. Although they had lived a bit dangerously at times, Rangers had managed to hold onto their goal advantage. At half time, most of the talk was about how Ceux were being given a bit too much time and space, and that they needed to be closed down and pressed a bit quicker. The gaffer urged all 11 men in white to give everything they had for 45 more minutes. He also stressed the need to keep counter attacking and running at the Ceux back four with pace as more chances were sure to come for Rangers that way.

As if to prove this fact, with only a few minutes on the clock in the 2nd half Rangers extended their lead through this exact method. The goal came from a defence splitting ball down the middle from Josh, which Glen got on the end of after outpacing the back four, before firing past the advancing keeper into the roof of the net. At 2-0 Rangers had a bit of a cushion, but there was still a long way to go with most of the 2nd half still to play. It also saw Herstmonceux bring on a second striker and change to 4-4-2, as they really had to try and get back in the game now. This suited Rangers as they could match up better in midfield and would also have more space to run into on the break. As the 2nd half progressed it became clear that the hard work by Rangers and the lack of fresh legs to bring on from the bench was taking its toll, as some of the players were noticeably tiring. This prompted the gaffer to pull striker Ben Jesson back into midfield, leaving Glen Noble up front on his own to provide an outlet with his pace. As the game time wore down, Ceux’s attacks became more and more desperate, but the men in white stayed resolute and stood up tall. Keeper Grant Smith made a great save 1 on 1 with Ceux’s impressive centre midfielder, while Josh Kyte made yet another goal line clearance from a corner. There was also a flurry of tackles and blocks as the red & blacks put their bodies on line to secure the victory. As the final few minutes ticked down, Ceux were getting very frustrated as they couldn’t breach the white wall, and it became clear that it wasn’t going to be their day. After a fairly lengthy amount of injury time, the referee finally blew the whistle for full time, and Rangers were able to celebrate the win and enjoy a bit of pay back after the defeat to Ceux earlier in the season. Overall it was a resolute and workman like performance by Rangers, especially with only a bare 11 and against a very strong Ceux team. Yes Ceux may have had more of the possession and more of the play, but as Rangers had found out the previous week this doesn’t always mean that you get the win. Rangers executed their game plan perfectly, especially in the 2nd half where they soaked up the pressure, were strong defensively and hit Ceux on the break. Credit must go to Herstmonceux for the positive and sporting way they played the game, and for being welcoming and friendly hosts to Rangers.

The gaffer was rightly proud of all the players who gave every bit of effort they had in this game. From keeper Grant who pulled out a string of excellent saves, to the back four of Tribe, Mike, Dan and Webby who were so strong & solid, and never stopped tackling all afternoon. Midfielders Chris, Jules & Conor who all ran themselves into the ground trying to control the game against the extra man that Ceux had in there for most of the match. Up front Glen and Ben were a constant threat with their pace, and the concern of the Ceux back four every time they ran at them was obvious to see. After a team performance like this, it is very hard to choose a man of the match. But after an assist, three goal line clearances, being a constant threat down the left as well as putting in a shift defensively, it had to go to Josh who is definitely back to his best now.

With this win, Rangers kept their cushion at the top, and their fate is still in their own hands. With 7 league games left, the red & blacks know that picking up 7 wins will see them secure the title. It will be very hard and their will no doubt be more up’s and down’s for all the clubs involved in the title race, but with hard work, desire and focus the rewards are there to be had for Rangers. The title chase continues on Saturday with a return to the field of the dreams, where the red & blacks will take on Mayfield. Rangers came out 3-1 winners in a hard fought game away at Mayfield earlier in the season. Much of the same can be expected on Saturday, as Mayfield will be tricky opponents and will certainly not roll over for the red & blacks. Hard work and determination will be required if Rangers are to secure the win. The management team will want to see the team kick on after the hard earned win against Herstmonceux, with no dropping of the levels. It will be a very busy few weeks, with a lot of games coming up in a short period of time, and every squad member will need to be at their best, and play their part if the club is to earn more silverware. BRING IT ON!

(4-5-1)

GK Grant Smith
RB Tom Tribe
LB Ryan Webb
CB Dan Harmer (c)
CB Mike Pickard
CM Julian Waters
CM Connor Middleton
RW Christian Ward
LW Josh Kyte - MOM
F Ben Jesson
F Glen Noble
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