The Hoops were unable to prevent AFC Croydon Athletic from regaining the leadership of the Southern Counties East League on Saturday.
Two second-half goals took the Rams back to the top after they had been briefly displaced by Lordswood following the latter’s 2-1 victory at Corinthian 24 hours earlier.
Although Deal have made something of a habit of beating the league’s high-fliers this season Saturday’s encounter proved “a bridge too far”. On a bumpy pitch which suited Croydon’s long-ball tactics the Hoops showed their familiar desire and commitment but, without the finishing skills upfront of the unavailable Sam Wilson, they were unable to convert any of the several opportunities they created before being gradually worn down by Croydon’s heavy bombardment.
Deal’s chances also weren’t helped by the referee waving away their appeals for a 10th-minute penalty after Jack Paxman was pulled down in the box, but the Hoops continued to hold their own in the goalless first half against a confident Croydon side who had won five of their previous six league games.
However, within three minutes of the restart the home team made the breakthrough when Nahum Green latched onto another long ball and, with the Hoops now having to push more men forward, Croydon began to dominate.
And their pressure paid off when Vierra Medina made it 2-0 following a 76th-minute corner, leaving the Hoops to contemplate a long journey home from south-east London.
Deal: Tonkin, Scott, Hark, Hill, K Smith, Butcher (Zureiqi 81), Paxman, Adams (Alexander 55), Coyne, Alexander, Miller.