Although they produced some creditable resistance the Hoops were eventually undone by the most potent attacking force in the SCEL Premier Division.
Cray Valley came into the game on the back of a six-match winning, during which they had banged in 21 goals, but for nearly 70 minutes of Saturday’s game the Millers were kept at bay by some resolute Deal defending and more superb work from James Tonkin.
The young ‘keeper was called into action as early the first minute when veteran striker Kevin Lisbie, who famously scored a hat-trick for Charlton against Liverpool when the Addicks were in the Premier League, broke through the Hoops backline in search of his 22nd goal of the season but was denied by Tonkin.
And with “Tonks” pulling off a number of other fine saves, and man-of-the-match Alfie Foster producing a gritty marking job on Lisbie, Deal were able to frustrate Cray for nearly 70 minutes. But on the “flip side” the Hoops, missing the suspended Connor Coyne, offered little in the way of an attacking threat themselves and Millers’ ‘keeper Andy Walker was only called into serious action in the dying minutes when he turned Sam Wilson’s strike away for a corner.
Along with Coyne the Hoops are also currently missing several other “regulars” through injury and manager Derek Hares said: “It’s difficult for us to cope with that sort of situation, but I think the boys gave it all they have got (today) against a good side. ‘Tonks’ made some good saves in the first half but neither side created a lot for the first 70 minutes and the first goal was always going to be crucial.”
And it finally came in the 68th-minute when the Millers’ new signing, Gavin Tomlin, reacted quickest in a goalmouth scramble to volley past Tonkin from close range. The Hoops ‘keeper had little chance of stopping that effort and the same applied to Cray’s second goal seven minutes later when a corner from Anthony Edgar flipped off the head of Liam Hark into his own net.
Deal kept battling away but, whereas Cray have now scored 23 goals in seven games, the Hoops have managed just six in the same period and that current lack of a “cutting edge” is proving difficult to overcome, with Hares adding: “Five or six weeks ago we always looked like we were going to score, but we are not creating a lot at the moment. That said, if we had played like that against 75% of the teams in this league we would have come away with something.”
Deal: Tonkin, Reeves (C Miller 51), Alexander, Hark, Foster, Maughan, B Munday (Howard 76), Chapman, Wilson, Pilcher (Walsh 73), A Milller.