One typical piece of opportunism from Paul Vines, the Southern Counties East League’s leading scorer, sent the Hoops to their first defeat in seven matches on Tuesday.
Vines grabbed his 42nd goal of the season four minutes before half-time to keep the Chats’ title hopes alive on the night when the Charles Ground’s splendid new floodlights were used for the first time, and but for Vines’ strike Deal would have gained some reward for a hard-working performance against a much more experienced Chatham outfit.
Both sides struggled to contend with the windy conditions early on but as half-time approached Chatham started to threaten and Vines, who for most of the game was tightly marked by Kane Smith, produced the game’s decisive moment with a near-post header from Matt Bodkin’s corner.
Hoops ‘keeper Nick Shaw, again deputising for James Tonkin, then produced two superb saves early in the second half and for the rest of the game Deal, with Billy Munday impressing in central midfield, gave as good as they got in terms of possession and commitment but without being able to find an equaliser.
The nearest they came was when Joe Reeves saw his 63rd-minute intended cross come back off the Chatham bar while at the other end Shaw denied the visitors’ further joy with two more brave blocks before Vines uncharacteristically wasted a late chance to score his second goal, but he had already done enough.
Deal: Shaw, Chapman, O’Brien, Maughan, Smith, Foster (Murray), B Munday, Pilcher (Miller 79), Coyne, Wilson, Reeves (Arthurs 70).