By Deal Town

The Hoops begin the New Year with their first league game at Chatham Town for 18 years on Saturday.

Their last visit to Maidstone Road was back in the 2000-01 season when the Chats won 1-0, which was one of 23 victories they gained out of 32 matches on their way to lifting the Kent League title and with it promotion to the old Ryman League.

But their long stay in the higher level came to an end with last season’s relegation and Chatham initially found life just as tough in the early stages of the Southern Counties East League campaign, including a 2-0 defeat the Charles Ground, and the Chats were lying second from bottom of the table at the end of September. That situation led to the sacking of manager Paul Piggott, who was replaced by James Collins and he has succeeded in steadying the ship with the Chats picking up 20 points from his 18 league games in charge.

Hoops manager Derek Hares said: “It will be a tough game up there. We beat them here but they are a changed side from then. Hopefully we’ll have a few more players available this week.”

Deal won 1-0 at Bearsted last Saturday despite missing several players but Kane Smith, Alfie Foster  and Danny Smith are all available again this weekend. However Luke Bigginton and Andy Miller are both suspended while Charlie Walsh is still injured.

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