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12/13 Match Reports

7th May
Eastbourne Rangers v Herstmonceux
Mike Pickard 65'

Eastbourne Rangers completed their historic triple league winning season on Tuesday night with a cup final against Herstmonceux 1st team in the Eastbourne Vice Presidents Cup at The Oval. After already achieving their main goal of securing the league title, this cup final appearance was a bonus to every ranger who had worked hard all season. Gaffer Nick Stevenson had one very notable absentee from his cup final squad with influential vice captain Dan Harmer away on holiday – a cruel blow for the squad and for Harmer himself who, after being a great servant to the club, had to miss Rangers first ever cup final.

Ever present Grant Smith took the gloves for what could be his last game for the club while in the absence of Harmer, skipper Dave Bennett-Tomlin dropped into to centre half to partner powerhouse Mike Pickard. After a late fight to prove his fitness just 3 days earlier, Mark Hymans got the nod at right back with Ricky Curran taking up the left back birth. The rangers centre midfield saw buddies Jules Waters and Rob Anderson pair up while Chris Ward and Josh Kyte were under starter’s orders on the right and left wing respectively. With more than 50 league goals between them, the potent combination of Ben Jesson and Glen Noble were tasked with breaking through the ceux defence. Rangers had plenty of options on the bench with Conor Middleton, Ryan Webb, Tom Tribe, Stuart Potter and Luke Davies all hoping to play some part in the game.

Rangers knew this was going to be a tough game and were relaxed by the fact that nobody expected them to win – in some quarters it was clear that the red and blacks were not given a chance against a recently rejuvenated ceux first team who had recently secured their division 2 status for another season.

From the kick off it was clear that the game would be competitive, as every cup final should be. Ceux started the brighter in terms of creating chances and although they played some neat stuff at times, anything that went in the vicinity of their strikers was general over the top with the rangers centre backs and keeper Smith generally on high alert. It was from one of these balls that ceux indirectly created their first chance of the game. Keeper Smith came rushing out to meet a through ball and only managed to clear to a ceux player on the rangers right. A first time effort on goal followed with Smith desperately trying to get back to his goal. The ball sailed over him and was goal bound but Curran was on hand to head away on the goal line – a great passage of football which saw the huge Oval crowd on their feet in appreciation.

Rangers looked composed on the ball and were playing the rangers way – ball on the ground from the back looking to pass their way through the Ceux defence. Rangers greatest threat was that of Jesson who attracted a lot of ceux attention whenever he got the ball. Kyte on the rangers left also looked threatening but ceux had threats of their own, mainly on their wings. Hymans was tormented by the ceux left winger with the rangers man’s lack of minutes clearly showing. On the rangers left, despite the quality of the ceux right winger, Curran was solid and very rarely did the ceux winger get the better of the rangers left back. Curran in fact went on to make two further goal line clearances in the half proving he is definitely always the man in the right place, at the right time. Ceux also offered a threat from set pieces with rangers only having 2 two six footers in the team through Bennett-Tomlin and Pickard. In particular, the smaller ceux centre half was a constant threat due to his power and movement and came close on two occasions from ceux corners. Some rash challenges from ceux began to fly in as frustration at the 0-0 score line clearly began to boil. The ceux left back found himself in the book for a very late challenge on Jesson, while moments later, Hymans was completely upended with the culprit going away unpunished due to the fact the referee played a very good advantage but then failed to go back and deal with the perpetrator when the ball went out of play.

The opening goal of the game came 5 minutes before the break from a very likely source. The ceux left winger caused mayhem down the rangers right and found himself in space to get a shot away. The forthcoming shot across the face of keeper Smith’s goal was unfortunately turned into his own net by Anderson who was desperately trying to get back and clear but to no avail. 1-0 ceux.

Rangers were not deterred, they had been in the game with half chances from Kyte and Noble snuffed out by the ceux defence and keeper. Rangers also had a penalty shout turned down when Kyte beat his man and was bundled over in the area - no penalty. On the stroke of half time, rangers were so close to finding the equaliser. A free kick forty yards from goal was placed by Jesson who spotted a late, straight run from Pickard into the ceux area. A superb chip from the rangers talisman completely bamboozled the ceux defence and keeper with the ball being pinged into the corridor of uncertainly. Pickard continued his run but was a hair’s width away from making contact with the ball. To make matters worse for rangers, the ball then crept agonisingly wide of the post with the ceux keeper clearly stranded.

1-0 to ceux at half time and all things considered, maybe a fair score line. But at 1-0 rangers knew they were still well in the game and with some minor tactical tweaks at the interval rangers were ready to “leave it all on the pitch” for the last 45 minutes of the season.

Rangers began the second half brightly and looked to slot Jesson and Noble in through the channels whenever possible, as the ceux back four did not look comfortable against the pace of the rangers duo when the ball was at their feet. Early on in the half, Hymans lack of fitness was telling which saw Tribe replace him at right back with the sole aim of containing the ceux left winger.

The first of two turning points in the game followed on 59 minutes. Jesson was put though on goal and jinked his way into the ceux box. About to pull the trigger, Jesson was bundled over from behind with the entire rangers contingent screaming for a penalty. With the ceux defender the last man, any action would surely have resulted in a red card. Fortunately for ceux, the referee waved away the penalty claims, which begs the question – should Jesson have been booked for simulation……….? He wasn’t, therefore a major let off for ceux on two counts!

Rangers continued to play some good stuff and after identifying that ceux looked a bit shaky from set pieces at half time, it was no surprise that rangers levelled via this route. A free kick was awarded to rangers on half way, but this time the usual rangers way of playing out from the back was momentarily put on hold. Ceux were not organised and seemed panicked on the edge of their box. This panic was more apparent when Pickard made a late run from halfway to join the rangers attack. With nobody keen to mark Pickard, Curran took the opportunity to take the free kick quickly and a well timed and accurate ball into the box found Pickard at the back post who leapt the highest to power home a header to bring rangers back on level terms. 1-1. Ceux were unhappy, they claimed that Jesson got the last touch of the ball on the goal line from Pickard’s header, but the linesman got it right as the ball had already crossed the line before Jesson got anywhere near it.

This sequence of events saw the introduction of Davies who joined Jesson up front. Noble moved to the left wing which saw Ward come off and take a seat on the rangers bench while Kyte came over to the rangers right.

On 71 minutes, Jesson was in the thick of the action again in what turned out to be THE defining sequence of events of the match. Some neat rangers play across the midfield found Kyte who played a quick, first time ball through the right hand channel for Jesson. With a little look up and the keeper seemingly flat footed, a sharp finish into the far corner of the ceux net soon followed. The rangers celebrations were soon cut short when the linesman had judged Jesson to be offside. With rangers still coming to terms with a poor decision (a ceux spectator who was level with play told Kyte after the game that Jesson was clearly onside), ceux set off on a blistering counter attack down the rangers left. With the ceux right winger now playing right back, this did not deter the energy of the little whippet. A bursting run of 40 or so yards left rangers for dead. And with a final ball into the box to match, a first time finish from the ceux forward into the bottom corner left keeper Smith with no chance. A superb goal, a goal worthy to win any game.

This saw a last roll of the dice for rangers which saw Curran make way for Middleton. Middleton joined Jesson and Davies up front leaving rangers with a back three. This seemingly gave the ceux wingers a little more freedom. Keeper Smith was called into action with 8 minutes to go when the ceux left winger hit a RASPING 30 yard effort only for Smith to athletically dive across his goal and parry the ball away to safety.

Since moving over to the right wing, Kyte had been giving the ceux left back a torrid time and had beaten him for pace on several occasions. It was through this avenue of attack that rangers came close to levelling the score, as with just a few minutes left on the clock, Kyte zipped past the left back again and found himself in space on the left of the ceux box. Cutting back on to his favoured left foot, rangers were optimistic, but the little man uncharacteristically spooned his shot over the ceux bar.

The last 5 minutes saw ceux make rolling subs every 30 seconds, no doubt to waste time even though the referee was adding the time on. With even the ceux players becoming frustrated at this tactic, it does make you wonder WHY? They were also taking every opportunity to run the ball into the corners at rangers end of the pitch which was odd bearing in mind the ceux hierarchy felt they had dominated the game comfortably.

Rangers final chance of any note came in injury time when a ball was played into the ceux box and it pinged around before falling to Davies at the back post about 5 yards out. He looked certain to smash the ball into the net, but unfortunately when bringing the ball down it had hit his arm, and despite him claiming that this was due to getting a push in the back, the referee awarded ceux a free kick. The referee also ignored the ludicrous shout from the ceux bench for Davies to be sent off for deliberate handball. A quick read of the laws of the game would have cleared up this confused call, as deliberate handball is at most a yellow card offence unless it DENIES an obvious goal scoring opportunity. As Davies had not previously been booked and was about 90 yards from his own goal, any thought that he might see red was misguided at best.

Despite rangers best efforts, the game finished 2-1. The winner was superb but the sequence leading up to the goal will leave a bitter taste in the mouth of every ranger. Ceux found themselves 2-1 up instead of 2-1 down in the space of minute which was ultimately game defining. Rangers can be pleased with their efforts as this performance shows they can more than hold their own against division 2 teams with their style of football. Outstanding performances from Pickard, Bennett-Tomlin and in particular Curran at the back maybe tells its own story but the MOM was awarded to this seasons ever present Grant Smith, who was commanding between the sticks and made some outstanding saves in what could be his last game in a rangers shirt before hanging up his gloves. Top work fella.

Special mention must go to Ryan Webb and Stuart Potter who were both very unlucky not to make it onto the pitch in the final. Both of them have played a big part in rangers securing their third title in a row this season, and certainly deserved a run-out in the cup final. But unfortunately with only 3 subs being allowed there had to be two members of the squad who missed out. The management team are extremely grateful to both Webby and Stu for coming along, being part of the cup final squad and supporting the rest of the team. Despite their obvious disappointment they were team players to the end, and that won’t be forgotten.

Congratulations to Herstmonceux on their cup triumph and good luck to them for next season.

And congratulations to rangers on yet another superb league winning season. Despite a cup final defeat, it is definitely……..

Mission accomplished.

(4-4-2)

GK Grant Smith - MOM
RB Mark Hymans (Tom Tribe 60')
LB Ricky Curran (Connor Middleton 80')
CB Dave Bennett-Tomlin (c)
CB Mike Pickard
CM Julian Waters
CM Rob Anderson
RW Christian Ward (Luke Davies 70')
LW Josh Kyte
F Glen Noble
F Ben Jesson
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