Plains Rangers FC

27 April 2024
Rangers men 1 (6), Tauranga City Juggernauts
1 (5)

Plains Rangers played out a thriller in their Miller Cup home fixture against Tauranga City Juggernauts at the Edgecumbe Domain on Saturday. Glorious sunny conditions brought out a good-sized crowd to watch. The visitors, last season's second division champions, had had a strong start to the season, winning all their games in the grade above Rangers, so a tough encounter was expected.
Rangers' keeper Christian Wetting was called on to make a strong save in the early minutes to keep his goal intact. One minute later, a Rangers raid saw Ben McPherson get the ball in the net, but the goal was ruled out for a foul in the lead up play. Juggernauts put plenty of good moves together and Rangers defence did well to keep them out. After twenty minutes, a Juggernauts free-kick thundered against the Rangers crossbar and was cleared. Late in the half, a home team attack ended in controversy, when the visiting keeper looked like he might have been out of his goal area when he grabbed the ball with his arms. However, there was no assistant referee on that side of the pitch to back up the Rangers' appeals. The first half ended 0 – 0.
Rangers gradually gained more influence on the game during the second stanza. Fifteen minutes in, Ben McPherson stole possession from the Juggernauts defence, but put his shot wide. With thirteen minutes to go, Rangers took the lead. Wetting threw the ball long from goal. It was headed on by Hamish Wilde, through for livewire striker Elias Thomas. He rounded a defender and squared the ball across goal for Jesse Meadows to score. The visitors upped their effort to try and equalise. Wilde had to make a goal-line clearance, Wetting pulled off a brilliant save from close range, but Rangers weren't able to deny the Juggernauts. With five minutes to go, Rangers lost possession from a throw-in and the visitors scored, making it 1 - 1. Wetting made another top save in the final minute to take the game to a penalty shoot-out.
Both teams held their nerve to have it 4 – 4 after the first five penalties. In sudden death, it got to 5 – 5 before a Wetting save and the calm shot of young defender Ollie Fort won the game for Rangers 6 – 5.
Rangers will progress to the next round of the Miller Cup on June 1st, while Juggernauts will now be part of the Miller Bowl. Rangers will feel they deserved the win but had to withstand a strong challenge with a fine defensive display. Ollie Fort was named player of the day for his intelligent play in defence and for converting his penalty. Keeper Wetting and the central defensive pairing of Sam McPherson and Teimana Awhimate also stood out.
This Saturday Rangers men are back to grading games for the league, meeting Te Puke, away in an early kick-off. Rangers' women are away to Otumoetai on Sunday in the Bay Women's League.

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