By Kevin Redsull
This was one of those games which promised beforehand to be a closely-fought affair and that’s the way it panned out in front of a healthy midweek crowd of 239 at the Charles Ground.Both sides came into the match having conceded an average of one goal or less in their previous eight league games and they demonstrated why with some determined defensive work which ensured that particular “stat” remains intact. Deal went into the contest with several members of their squad on the injured list and skipper Kane Smith still suspended but a superb performance by Alfie Foster, ably supported in the middle of the defence by Toby Greenfield, ensured that Blair rarely forced ‘keeper James Tonkin into serious action during the 90 minutes.Tonkin’s counterpart, Mitchell Ware, was the busier of the two but again some robust and well-organised defending by the men in front of him meant that Ware’s work mostly involved dealing with routine crosses.However, he should have been beaten as early as the 10th minute when Lee Scott, left unmarked at the far post and the Hoops’ matchwinner against Tower Hamlets on Saturday, headed wide when it seemed easier to score.That was the nearest either side came to a goal during the first half and, although genuine chances still remained a rarity after the break, it was always an interesting contest to witness with both sides aware that one mistake would probably decide the outcome.The Gillingham club’s new signing Danny Kedwell, with a wealth of Football League experience under his belt, became more involved as the game progressed. That progression also saw the “foul count” by both sides begin to rise, which again could have proved costly but for the fact their defences continued to deal effectively with the series of resulting free-kicks.And the “blank” final scoreline was finally confirmed four minutes from time when the Hoops suffered their one piece of genuine bad luck on the night. Ryan Lewis broke down the left before finding fellow substitute Joe Reeves on the opposite flank, and Reeves then cut inside before shooting low against the inside of a post with Ware nowhere.So the Hoops had to settle for extending their current unbeaten run to six matches and assistant-manager Steve King “tweeted” afterwards: “Great shift from the boys tonight and another clean sheet. Shame we couldn’t find the winner but can’t fault the effort with seven key players missing.”Deal Town: Tonkin, Hark, Penny, Foster, Greenfield, Munday, Scott, Baker (Lewis 75), Wilson, Stannard (Reeves 71), Howard.