Originally meant to a home fixture, the pounding the Catsfield Rec took last week in the Tackleway game proved too much and rendered it unplayable this week. The Cats, therefore, travelled to Eastbourne Sports Park for the second time this season to play high flying Eastbourne Rangers. Rangers would be a tough test for the Cats – the now home side 2nd in the table and unbeaten in league competition so far this season. Rangers could also boast a 7-0 thrashing of the Cats in their most recent head-to-head a few months ago.
There were a few changes from the side that started the Tackleway game last week including a formation change. Manager Tony Luke decided to employ a defensive 5-4-1 formation. A sweeper system in order to combat the Rangers attack.
A. Winn retained his place in goal with the usual right and left back slots being taken up by Pistol Waughman and Swain. N. Champion partnered Rawlings in central defence with Booth being assigned as the sweeper just behind them.
A couple of changes in midfield saw Atkins get his first start since the Wittersham game, slotting in at left midfield with White switching flanks and operating down the right hand side. Ever-present Rollison was partnered by the returning Gurr to add some bite to the centre of the park.
Bradbury, who was due to start up-front, was running late and player-manager Luke wasn’t feeling 100% so it was in fact Harris that got the nod to play in the lone striker role – his first start since the Portslade cup game.
The aim for Catsfield was to keep it tight for the first 20 minutes and ultimately stay in the game for as long as possible. There was no doubting who were favourites to win the game and the Cats set up their defensive stall in respect of the Rangers side.
The tactics of the away side were blown away within the first 10 minutes in dubious circumstances. A Rangers striker bore down on the right hand side of the box and in what appeared a simple coming together with the Cats defender the ball trickled out for a goal kick. The referee, however, blew his whistle and pointed to the spot. The Eastbourne number 10 made no mistake from 12-yards and sent Winn the wrong way to put his side 1-0 up.
That set the tone for the first half which turned out to be entirely Eastbourne Rangers dominated. 1-0 became 2-0 several minutes later as a speculative long range strike from the right snuck in at Winn’s near post, clipping it on its way in. With Catsfield struggling to keep the ball and get out of their own half the Rangers onslaught continued and the home side went 3-0 up on the half hour mark with another strike from the edge of the box powering past Winn and in to the left hand corner.
Eastbourne were out of sight before the half time whistle as 3-0 became 4-0 with a delicate chip. The Rangers front man found himself one-on-one with the onrushing Winn before calmly chipping the ball up and over the Catsfield stopper and in to the empty net. The Cats completely blown away in a Eastbourne dominated first half. The only attempt on goal from the away side was a speculative 30-yard effort from Atkins which was more than comfortable for the Eastbourne goalkeeper. 4-0 at the break.
In an attempt to save face, manager Luke changed things up and switched Harris for Bradbury at the half time interval and then replaced Atkins for himself within the first 5 minutes of the second half. The Cats reverted to a more traditional 4-4-2 to add some more attacking threat to the away side.
The change of formation was successful almost immediately. After a flurry of Catsfield pressure, the away side won a corner. A flighted kick was sent in and was met by the head of White whose header flew in to the top right corner despite the desperate attempts from the Rangers defender on the line to keep it out - 4-1.
The goal ultimately turned out to be stark consolation for the Cats as it was only 8 minutes later that Rangers got the afternoons 6th and their 5th goal. An Eastbourne midfielder finding himself in a couple of yards of shooting space inside the box before firing low past Winn.
The Cats then made their third and final substitution with Baker replacing Gurr for the final quarter of an hour. A visibly deflated Catsfield side were just playing out the remaining minutes and the full time whistle couldn’t come quick enough. Eastbourne weren’t finished though and still had a couple of goals left in them. 5-1 became 6-1 with 10 minutes to play as a corner was cleared to the edge of the box where a Rangers midfielder was lurking. His first time shot flew in to the top left hand corner, giving Winn no chance. Baker then had a chance to grab another consolation for the Cats but his effort from a good position went just wide. Eastbourne then rounded off the afternoon with another goal in the 90th minute. The Rangers right back found himself in acres of room down the right before squaring it to the striker to knock it in to the empty net.
The referee had seen enough and duly blew the full time whistle. Another disastrous afternoon for Catsfield who have now shipped 15 goals in two games and despite being mid table they have the second worst defensive record and joint worst goals for record.
The Cats travel to Sidley next weekend as they play Pebsham Sibex at Buxton Drive. A result here would be the perfect cure for the past two weeks as the Cats are looking to put some festive cheer back in to their game with this being their last fixture of 2014.