Rangers again went with their now standard 4-2-3-1 formation. Andrew Albon got the nod between the sticks (ouch). Having only conceded 2 in his previous 3 appearances the impressive shot stopper was looking to bag another clean sheet and further shore up the defensive line. Dave ‘chuckles’ Bennett-Tomlin and Skipper Kyle ‘the Adonis’ Daines paired up at centre back in what was to be the 5th different partnership of the season. A stat due to Rangers strength in numbers, and quality, in that position *cough* rather than a managerial team franticly looking for a combination that works. Full backs were Aaron ‘cold hands’ Saunders on the left and resident rockstar Christian ‘wish they’d let me play 6 strings’ Ward on the right, both of whom’s reintroduction into the side 6 games ago has co-incided with Rangers winning streak. I know, bizarre huh.
The 2 holding midfielders for the day were last week’s free kick specialist Julian Waters and Harry Rimmer, classy playmaker and tea-totaller who has, at times, been known to pass the ball. Playing wide left was Luke Regan, another Ranger who has known nothing but victory this season and keen to add to his goal tally. Wide right was Dean Pugh, the diminutive wing wizard coiled like a spring, ready at a moment’s notice to move to left back when Aaron gets injured. The number 10 role was again entrusted to Anthony Allen. Pluggie was looking to build upon last week’s MOM performance … did he mention that he got MOM? Playing the lone role up top was Rangers Top Scorer Glen ‘Goal Drought’ Noble. Glen normally waits till after Xmas to not score again in a season but rumour has it he’s thinking of starting early this year. His tree is already up!
The Bench was made up of Joe Horton, Mike Pickard and Sam Weller. Apparently the council had requested Joe, AKA John, be restricted to a substitutes appearance this week as they had seen footage of Joe heaving great sods of turf out of the Peacehaven pitch last week while trying to play a through ball with the outside of his foot and they wanted to minimise the chances of their beloved 3G falling the same fate.
Cheering the lads on from the side-lines were goal scoring attacking midfielders Dan Harmer and Luke Davies
Rangers got off to an incredibly lethargic start, a far cry from the dynamic and pacey 1st half performance they put in a week earlier at Peacehaven. Some very sloppy passing in midfield coupled with a frustrating desire to play the ball either sideways or backwards was proving less than fruitful. AFC Hurst didn’t really cause the backline any problems but continually losing the ball in their own third was inviting trouble. Skipper daines pace did save Rangers on one occasion as their line was breached. From the side-lines it looked like Hurst should have been awarded a penalty as their striker latched onto a under hit header back to the keeper from DBT, Daines again using his pace to sweep round and mop up, unfortunately sweeping the Hurst striker off his feet in the process (he didn’t even get down on one knee this time). Thankfully the ref thought the contact outside the box and also that a yellow card be enough for the Rangers Skipper. The Hurst free kick was tame to say the least and Rangers had a survived a scare which would hopefully kick start their game.
20 minutes into the game Rangers began to find their feet and, in central midfield, Harry began to find his face. In two minds whether to head or chest an opposition goal kick that came his way he wisely opted for the underused third option of ‘facing’ it. It actually turned out to be a textbook ‘cheek’ into the path of his left back Aaron Saunders and Rangers were off on the attack. The audacity of face control has not been seen in a ranger’s shirt since Blain Kenward gave it his best shot away at Polegate back in 2009.
Just when we all thought this was going to be the only talking point of the game Rangers were awarded a free kick just to the right of centre around 25 yards out. Julian Waters was lining it up and, noticing that, Grant headed for the 3G exit so that he could quickly retrieve the ball when it inevitably sailed over the bar, over the fencing and into ECAT to begin a level 2 NVQ in hairdressing. To everyone’s surprise though this free kick did not go high and wide, it, in fact, went low(ish) and on target. A perfectly flighted left foot BENDER which was beautifully placed between the goalkeeper and the onrushing strikers and with one bounce it nestled nicely in the corner. 1 Nil.
Half time came and went yet unfortunately for the supporters the Bovril didn’t.
The second half continued much like the first with Rangers not quite at their fluent best. Hurst began to press a little more and opted to pull out ‘the weapon’. A semi long throw which was dealt with on the main by the centre backs. On one occasion it did lead to mayhem in the box when a case of ‘after you Claude’ from the home defenders allowed the ball to bounce in the 6 yard box and after a short scramble the Red and Blacks were relieved to eventually get the ball clear.
Midway through the half the management team began to ring the changes with Joe coming on for Pluggie. Joe went up top with Glen dropping in to the number 10 position. This proved an instant success with the Hurst centre backs seemingly unable to cope with Joe’s strength and Glen was seeing a lot more of the ball playing that little bit deeper. With 11 minutes left Joe chased down a ball that bounced between the Hurst centre back pairing. He latched onto it, feigned to go right but cut inside onto his left and smashed the ball home from 15 yards out to score for the second week running coming from the bench. Great goal. 2 nil.
Jules was then replaced by Mike in a straight swap in midfield and Sam cam on for Deano on the right wing. Rangers now looked very comfortable with the 2 goal cushion and Hurst looked deflated, resigned to a 3rd defeat to their hosts this season. Sam showed some great touches down the right and was incredibly unlucky not to score a worldie with 5 minutes remaining after his right foot dipping, 25 yard volley nestled into the onion bag, unfortunately just the wrong side of the post.
With a couple of minutes left winds at the Sports Park ceased for a split second as each and every Ranger took a collective gasp as keeper Albon went down in obvious pain after taking a late kick to the ankle. Thankfully, our newly found safe pair of hands, got up, although a little gingerly and it was only an impact injury rather than something more serious. Phew
Not the best performance but another win, 3 more points to the total and a clean sheet in difficult condition. Man of the match was awarded to Keeper Andrew Albon. Another great performance from the final piece in the MSFL teams jigsaw.
7 wins in a row is an msfl side record and if they can make it 8 next week against Jarvis Brook it will be a quite incredible run and put them firmly in the driving seat for the league title. Jarvis Brook are certainly the side that have caused Rangers the most problems this season and with 1 win apiece the 3rd and final encounter of the season is massive, just MASSIVE.