Although the Hoops could not argue that Chatham deserved to take all three points from Saturday’s clash they were entitled to feel aggrieved by the margin of their defeat.
All of the home side’s goals came in the second half, including two in injury-time, but it was the Chats’ opening goal six minutes after the break that left a bitter taste. It came when a Chatham player slid into goalkeeper James Tonkin as he dived low in the area, causing Tonkin to spill the ball at the feet of Paul Vines who gratefully stroked home his 14th goal of the season.
Tonkin was left lying on the ground requiring treatment while the Hoops’ players complained in vain to the officials that the goal had to be ruled out for a foul on the ‘keeper. A Chatham official admitted afterwards that “the first goal should probably have been disallowed and the 4-0 margin flattered us”, but that will be of little consolation to manager Derek Hares and his players who battled admirably for much of the contest to frustrate the league’s top scorers.
And it was Deal who should have made an important early breakthrough after just three minutes when Ben Cardwell volleyed wide from close range. Kane Smith also wasted a similar opportunity from a corner on the half hour mark and, although Chatham were enjoying the majority of the possession, Tonkin was rarely troubled apart from having to make one full-length dive to tip away Jack Mahoney’s fierce strike.
But soon after the restart came Chatham’s disputed “opener” and from that point on the home side grew in confidence and began to show why they are rated as genuine title-contenders this season. The experienced Byron Walker showed his class with a superb 76th minute strike before Chatham rubbed salt into the Hoops’ wounds with two more late goals, the first from Walker ’s calm lob and the second by Alfie Spiers after a thrilling 50-yard break by the young substitute.
Hoops’ head coach Steve King “tweeted” afterwards: “Frustrating afternoon for us where the scoreline doesn’t reflect the game or our performance. Fair play to Chatham who are a good side but we dust ourselves down and get ready for another big game on Tuesday.”
That game is at home to Canterbury City, who have jumped above the Hoops into fourth place in the table following their 5-2 win over Croydon on Saturday.
Deal: Tonkin, Hark, O’Brien, Bigginton, K Smith (Adams 82), Scott, Maughan, A Miller (Alexander 60), Coyne (Howard 71), Wilson, Cardwell.