The Hoops’ determined efforts to make sure Tuesday’s tie went ahead paid off as they booked their place in the last 16 of the League Challenge Cup.
The Charles Ground pitch had been badly cut up during Saturday’s defeat by Tunbridge Wells but several hours of repair work by a team of volunteers, led by manager Derek Hares, ensured that the surface passed a mid-afternoon inspection.
It was still far from perfect, however, and made quick passing football difficult, with Hares admitting afterwards: “If I’m being honest it wasn’t the best of games football-wise but that was probably down to the conditions because the pitch was still very heavy. We also had a few tired legs out there after Saturday but the lads dug in and made sure we got through to the next round.”
It was Punjab’s first visit to the Charles Ground and, as in their goalless draw with the Hoops last month, the Gravesend club showed plenty of commitment but they only really threatened attacking-wise in the closing stages. By then Deal were 3-0 up but they had to wait some time before imposing their authority on the game, with neither side able to create any genuine chances in the opening half hour.
The breakthrough finally came after 36 minutes when, from Steve O’Brien’s deep cross, Ben Chapman converted from a tight angle and, with man-of-the-match Lee Scott driving the Hoops forward from midfield, Deal then dominated most of the second half.
O’Brien added a second from the penalty spot on 50 minutes after Sam Wilson saw his shot deliberately handled on the goalline by United defender Paul Lorraine, who was shown a straight red card by referee Harry Wager for his transgression.
With half-time substitute Ben Cardwell causing the tiring Punjab defence problems with his powerful runs, the Hoops then wasted several chances before Cardwell made it 3-0 with a cool 74th-minute finish after being set up by Connor Miller.
But Deal then “took their foot off the gas” in the closing stages and paid a minor penalty when Simon Cuthbert pulled one back for Punjab in added time.
The Hoops will now meet Corinthian at home in the third round, with the date yet to be decided.
Deal: Tonkin, Chapman, O’Brien, Bigginton, Foster, Maughan, Scott, B Munday (A Miller 78), Coyne (Cardwell 46), Wilson (Rodgers 80), C Miller.