Match reports by Marc McKay
Sidley United 1-2 Eastbourne Rangers I
A severely depleted first XI team put in a performance of great togetherness at Hooe Rec to come away with a massive three points.
Rangers called upon the semi-retired Luke Barber to put on the Rangers colours for just the third time this season with Tom O'Keefe also making his first competitive start of the for Rangers after some time away from football. A debut for recent signing Michael Brown at full back also complemented a squad which had nine regulars missing.
The red and blacks took the lead as early as the fourth minute when a Ben Courtnage in-swinging corner, assisted by the howling wind, caused panic in the box which saw top scorer Tony Russell score from close range.
Andy Albon made good saves either side of a goal-saving last ditch Brown intervention while at the other end the visitors were left scratching their heads when Matt Haydock, clearly tripped in the area, was not awarded a spot kick by the referee.
With the wind howling around the Rec, Rangers went in a solitary goal up at the break but new there was still plenty of work to be done.
Sidley started off the strongest in the second half and had a strong appeal for a penalty turned down, with the referee adjudging the offence to have occurred just outside the area.
United were back on level terms though on 52 minutes after the referee failed to award a freekick to skipper Carl Kenward, who was bundled to the floor, and from the resulting throw-in, the Sidley player flicked the ball on at the near post for the dangerous (and unmarked) number 10 to tuck away the simplest of goals to bring the score level.
Rangers responded with a fabulous chance created by Dan Wilkes and Ben Courtnage on the Rangers right hand side with the latter fizzing a ball across the six yard box where Meier was excellently denied by the United keeper.
With 14 minutes to go Russell appeared to have the the ball in the net from another Courtnage corner but the referee felt the Sidley defender had done enough to make the goal line clearance despite furious protests from the Rangers players.
With 2 minutes of normal time left, Rangers finally got their reward when a Sidley player handled the ball in the area. Up stepped Russell who just about beat the keeper to his left, 2-1 rangers.
After an age of time added on, the full time whistle finally blew - a dogged and defiant display from a determined set of players.
The Old Dave's Gourmet Burger Co. MOM was awarded to debutant Michael Brown who put in an exceptional display in his first appearance for the club.
Copthorne III 2-2 Eastbourne Rangers II
With three players missing from the squad that were victorious the previous week, it was an under strength second XI that took the pitch against Copthorne 3rds.
Copthorne started off at a very high tempo and were closing Rangers down quickly, but they soon ran out of steam which gave Rangers more space to knock the ball around. The build up play from front to back was proving effective and chances were being created with both Glen Noble and Josh Kyte shooting just wide on two occasions each. The pressure did pay of eventually when Aaron Saunders made a good run down the left and put in a dangerous cross which their centre back could only head into his own net.
During the second half, Copthorne started to come into the game more. But Rangers were continuing to apply pressure, with Noble, Kyte and Jamie Strong all having good chances and the Copthorne keeper making several excellent saves. Eventually Rangers did extend their lead when they got a free kick on the left-hand corner of the box. Up stepped Strong to bend the ball into the far top corner with the keeper motionless. A deserved 2-0 lead and Rangers were now cruising.
The home side did eventually get back into the game in controversial circumstances. A corner was swung in which Rangers were unable to clear. This led to a goalmouth scramble, a couple of attempts to force the ball home were blocked before Martin Bell eventually grabbed the ball on the line. But the referee decided that the ball had already crossed the line and awarded a goal.
Copthorne sensed that they could get something from the game now and Rangers had a let off when from another corner a point blank header from right in front of goal was put over the bar. Rangers looked like they were going to hold on for a deserved win as the clock ticked past 90 minutes. The referee indicated that he was playing 3 minutes of injury time. With 5 of minutes of injury time already played, the most contentious moment of the game occurred.
A diagonal clearance was made from Rangers right back area into Copthorne's half. Strong who was in an offside position, stood motionless with his hands up to show that he wasn't going for the ball. The linesman still raised his flag, but in the meantime Kyte who was onside raced onto the ball. However, the referee blew up for the offside and indicated that he thought Kyte was the one offside despite him starting his run in his own half and being quite a way behind Strong. The freekick was floated into Rangers half, were it fell kindly for a Copthorne player about 25 yards out. He hit a speculative low shot that went through a Rangers player's legs and fizzed past an unsighted Bell into the bottom corner. With the referee blowing the final whistle straight afterwards without restarting the game, a shell shocked Rangers were left to rue what could have been.
The Old Dave's Gourmet Burger Co. MOM was deservedly awarded to Cristos Misirlis who put in an excellent performance in the middle of the park and never stopped running.