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12/13 Match Reports

8th April
Little Chelsea 2 v 0 Eastbourne Rangers

Eastbourne Rangers completed their gruelling schedule of 4 games in 10 days on Monday night against a very experienced Little Chelsea team in the quarter final of the Eastbourne FA Junior cup. After picking up three injuries in Saturday’s league game, the gaffer was without Conor Middleton, Tom Tribe and Stuart Potter as well as long term injury victim Mark Hymans. This meant a late call up to the squad for Jamie Strong who kindly stepped up at the last minute to pull on a rangers shirt for the first time joining Ricky Curran and Luke Davies on the bench.

Keeper Grant Smith continued his ever present run in the rangers goal and had the back four of Rob Anderson, Mike Pickard, Dan Harmer and Ryan Webb to snuff out any danger in front of him. The midfield comprised on Chris Ward and Josh Kyte on the wings with skipper Dave Bennett-Tomlin joined by Jules Waters in central midfield. The free scoring Ben Jesson and Glen Noble were to be the rangers outlets up top. There was much talk before the game of how rangers would approach this challenge, in particular with the size of the pitch recognised as a potential advantage to rangers when in possession of the ball. Rangers also knew this could be a potential problem when not in possession with some particular bits and pieces highlighted to the team before kick off.

It took a few minutes for the game to settle and it was apparent almost immediately that Chelsea’s quality on the ball could cause rangers problems throughout the game. That being said, rangers posed questions to the opposition too by knocking the ball around and trying to play the game in the right way with Jules in the middle keeping things ticking over for the red and blacks. Josh also looked as dangerous as ever on the left, tormenting his full back but despite some good early possession, rangers were unable to test the Chelsea keeper. The rangers back four looked to have their hands full with possibly one of the quickest strikers they have ever faced to contend with, the Little Chelsea number 10. Not only was he quick but the timing of his runs and movement were to be a constant thorn in rangers side for the duration of the game.

It was from this source that Little Chelsea took the lead midway through the first half. A searching ball for the Chelsea rocket saw rangers caught on their heals. In a flash, he latched on to the ball, turned on the after burners and slotted home past an on rushing Smith in the rangers goal. 1-0 Little Chelsea.

This was a big blow for rangers who had started the game reasonably well. Dave was doing his best to break up play in the middle and had success a lot of the time but the Chelsea midfield were very smart, with most of them having been round the county league circuit for a number of years which made regaining possession of the ball very difficult on numerous occasions. Rangers front two were also struggling to break through the organised Chelsea back four who always seemed to do just enough to prevent rangers either getting a shot away or crossing the ball into dangerous areas. At the other end, Smith was outstanding in the rangers goal claiming / punching away numerous corners and free kicks to safety to ease the pressure on the rangers defence.

Seven minutes after the opener, Little Chelsea doubled their lead – and it was in great part to their little rocket up front yet again. Big Mike just failed to cut out a through ball on half way which found its way through to the Chelsea danger man. More afterburners left the rangers back line wanting and with keeper Smith coming out to narrow the angle, the wily forward had a little look up and squared the ball to a supporting Chelsea player who tapped home with ease to give Little Chelsea that valuable two goal cushion.

Half time followed and rangers had not disgraced themselves one bit. But for two lapses the scores may well have been level. More worryingly, rangers had not tested the Chelsea keeper all half. The management team were keen to be positive at half time as rangers had showed great endeavour for the first forty-five minutes. With the Chelsea left back on a booking and rangers not retaining the ball up front as effectively as was needed, rangers made a change which saw Luca come on up front with Glen moving to the right wing with the hope his pace would trouble the Chelsea left back. This saw Chris take a seat on the bench.

Second half and rangers took to the pitch believing they could still get something from the game. There was much possession from both teams in the midfield areas in the opening exchanges, and 10 minutes into the half, Chelsea seem a little rattled. Josh was still tormenting his full back and it was from here that rangers looked likely of creating something. Unfortunately, nothing transpired early on and Chelsea quickly resumed their composure. Half hour left on the clock saw Rick replace webby at left back with Jamie coming on for his debut up front. This saw Ben move to the rangers right and Glen take a seat on the rangers bench. Rangers continued to probe when possible but in the final third a combination of wily defending and lack of creativity ensured rangers were kept at bay. Jamie eventually came into the game and started picking out passes to the rangers flanks. On the occasions rangers did get to the by-line, a Chelsea defender was always on hand to cut out any crosses. In the rangers half, Smith was busy again keeping the Chelsea tally down, this time saving a freekick low to his left hand post.

With fifteen minutes to go, rangers had a GLORIOUS opportunity to get back into the game. Play was switched to rangers very own little rocket Josh on the left and after travelling forty yards with the ball at his feet, the little man dinked the ball over the on rushing keeper. With the rangers bench celebrating, the ball rebounded agonisingly off of the post and to the grateful feet of a covering Chelsea defender. So close. A few minutes later, another tactical switch as rangers now had to go for broke. This saw Mike depart for Chris, who went back on to the right wing which saw Ben make a three pronged attack up front with Jamie and Luca. This left rangers with Dan, Rick and Rob as a back three. Glen also came on for a tiring Josh who had ran his heart out on the left for the whole game.

This left rangers more susceptible to the pace of the Chelsea number 10 and if it wasn’t for a couple of despairing covering tackles by Rob (who was the only ranger that could nearly match the number 10s pace), rangers would have been dead and indeed buried. Another outstanding stop from Smith also kept Chelsea out after athletically saving up to his top right to palm the ball over the rangers bar. A few little sniffs around the Little Chelsea goal at the other end usually saw rangers seen off – a few occasions rangers could have tested the keeper but chose not to, which was very disappointing. Rangers last sniff of the game was when a sublime through ball was played to Ben who couldn’t quite take the ball in his stride, with the result a Chelsea goal kick. 2-0 was the final score and although rangers gave it a good go, Little Chelsea’s experience and know how was just a bit too much for rangers on the night.

Every ranger should be proud of their efforts, and as the red and blacks charge up the divisions, this is maybe just a little insight into what lies in store next season and beyond. A fair result but not one that should deter rangers for the rest of this season – in fact they should be proud of the fact that Little Chelsea showed them the ultimate respect by fielding a very strong line up – a line up which eludes them most weeks on a Saturday afternoon. With Grant between the sticks exceptional and Josh an immense attacking force all game, they both just about miss out on the MOM to Jules, who against better than usual opposition, upped his game and was superb throughout. This call was verified by the Little Chelsea camp who’s cries of “who’s picking up the number 8” can still be heard ringing around The Oval. Big Dave also deserves a shout out after working hard all game not only as the enforcer in the rangers midfield, but also as an individual that was a calming influence with and without the ball for the entire game.

Next up for rangers is a double header and a long trip to Iden. With 6 points up for grabs, this is a big weekend for rangers as maximum points will see them open up a gap at the top of the table. Although going out of two cups in the last 4 games is disappointing, it should be noted that rangers ultimate goal was always to bring home their third successive league title. At the moment we’re on schedule but a lapse at the weekend means this could all change. League focus is now paramount.

(4-4-2)

GK Grant Smith
RB Rob Anderson
LB Ryan Webb (Ricky Curran 60')
CB Dan Harmer
CB Mike Pickard
CM Dave Bennett-Tomlin (c)
CM Julian Waters - MOM
RW Christian Ward (Luke Davies 45')
LW Josh Kyte
F Ben Jesson
F Glen Noble (Jamie Strong 60')
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