On a dreary, rain soaked afternoon, Rangers conjured up their worse performance of the season so far, and East End Park took full advantage, leaving with the points following an effective pressing game of their own.
Early exchanges saw East End move down the left wing until a combination of Dave McKay and Josh Buckley cleared the danger. Working it up the pitch, Rangers tried to play into the area through Roman Neal, but he was well shadowed, and the visitors defended with no trouble to their goal.
East End were first to shoot, but with pressure applied by Buckley, the striker had to snatch at his chance and Jonty Smith watched as it sailed harmlessly past his post.
Rangers managed to make it one apiece in the shot stakes when Charlie Yates and Neal linked up well down the left flank. Releasing James Woodward, he was able to ride a challenge before flashing his shot wide of the far post.
In the eighth minute, Rangers were cursing their inability to defend set pieces. A chance to clear their ranks wasn’t taken and, in the end, a scramble led to a corner that was easily slotted home from close range, by an unmarked opposition player.
Rangers were soon under pressure as East End threatened again, this time, McKay produced a superb tackle to disposes him and released Neal with a long ball. However, the pass was too strong, and the keeper was able to collect.
Despite the occasional foray out to the wings, the game spent a lot of time down the middle and neither team was having any luck in breaking free from the centre backs. On the rare moments when the ball was played out wide, Rangers nearly created openings through Neal and Charlie Yates, whose cut in and shot went agonizsngly wide of the far post with the keeper beaten. However, the same also applied to East End and a driven pass through the six-yard box needed just the faintest of touches to turn it home.
Neal was full of running and a good pass by Adam Carter saw the striker dart free, however a heavy first touch took the ball wide and a covering defender cleared the danger.
Whilst the tackling was looking on-point, Rangers were having issues clearing their lines and time after time, the blue shirts found play coming straight back at them as passes and half clearances were intercepted. The one saving grace however, was that none of this led to an opportunity for East End to increase their lead.
Rangers were being pressed back into deep positions, but when they did break, the build-up play was good. Yates, Neal, Woodward, Carter, Dan Slater and Joe Turley were all producing some good touches, but it was the final ball that failed to produce a chance, although Turley was very close to scoring in the 32nd minute, when his low shot spun just past the far post.
With chances at a premium for both sides, East End had the ball in the back of the net in the 35th minute, but Mr Bannister ruled that a foul had taken place in the buildup and brought play back for a Rangers free-kick. Moments later and the East End custodian was called into action when he leapt to tip Neal’s stinging shot, from the edge of the area, over the crossbar.
Deighton started the second half with a double substitution bringing Josh Barden and Jack Cheetham on for Yates and Turley, and it would be Barden who had the first shot of the half when he drove the ball straight at the keeper.
Rangers were attempting to play East End at their own game and were pressing high up the pitch. Finding space on both flanks, Neal and Cheetham each put in telling crosses that needed good defending to clear.
A deep curing cross by Cheetham, after a corner had been partially headed clear, nearly brought about the equaliser in absurd fashion! Changing off his line to punch clear, the East End keeper totally misjudged the flight of the ball and watched in horror as it bounced behind him and cleared the crossbar by inches.
The home side came forward again, through good work by Kieron O’Brien and the ever-busy Carter and forced a corner which fell for Barden to strike, but with bodies in the way, his shot crashed into a covering player and was cleared.
Rangers were celebrating in the 59th minute when Barden received the ball outside the area. Chipping the ball into Neal’s path, the striker shook off his marker’s attentions before passing to Carter. Moving the ball wide, he drilled his shot past the outstretched arm of the keeper and into the corner of the net.
The lead lasted all of five minutes, and it was a carbon copy of the first goal that came back to haunt Rangers, when the East End player accepted the free header presented to him to score past Smith from an in-swinging corner.
All watching thought the equaliser had arrived in the 71st minute when Carter produced some clever footwork to beat his man. Cutting into the area, he saw Barden totally free and squared the ball to him, however, his shot rolled the wrong side of the post from eight yards out leaving the striker head in hands in disbelief.
The tide of possession changed again, and the visitors began to push Rangers back and looked the more likely to add to their total. However, Deighton weathered the storm, mainly through some frenetic tackling!
The game crawled into the final ten minutes with both teams being called offside as they looked to score. A deep cross by McKay found Neal at the far side of the area, but as he shaped to shoot, the whistle stopped any further progress.
Smith suddenly found himself the busier of the two keepers, as he needed to be quick off his line several times to dive onto the ball as East End threatened.
With the shout of “game management” echoing throughout the visitor’s team, Rangers had the ball in the back of the net in the dying minutes through Neal’s header, after he rose at the far post to meet Barden’s cross, but any celebrations were cut short as Mr Bannister ruled the goal offside.
Another frustrating defeat to swallow, especially as we were masters of our own downfall as, yet again, we failed to defend set pieces. If we are to progress during the second half of this campaign, it is these mistakes that we need to iron out, and quickly!
Report by Pete Arnett
Team: Smith, McKay, O’Brien, Woodward, Richards, Buckley.J, Slater, Turley, Neal, Yates, Carter
Subs: Barden (for Yates 46), Cheetham (for Turley 46), Abbott (for Woodward 84).
Not Used: Large.M
Yellow Cards: None
Red Cards: None
Referee: Mr Nigel Bannister
KDRFC Man Of The Match (chosen by Pete Arnett): Two players stood out in what was a poor performance. Dave McKay gave another all action performance and put himself into every challenge well, but for this one, Adam Carter gets the nod. He was full of running, made life difficult for the East End left back and found good positions throughout the game. He certainly deserved his goal and finished it well.