Deal produced a battling team performance to book their place in the second round of the FA Vase in south-west London on Saturday.
Against a physically combative Balham side the Hoops built a two-goal cushion for themselves in the first half and then managed to hold on to it by the final whistle despite playing straight into a strong wind after the break.
“It was a difficult game, physically quite competitive shall we say,” manager Derek Hares said with a wry smile afterwards, “and I thought that defensively we stood up to them very well, especially against the wind in the second half.”
With the Hoops having the remnants of “Storm Brian” in their favour in the first half they made a perfect start by taking the lead after just three minutes. Balham conceded a free kick 25 yards out and Charlie Walsh curled his shot in off the underside of the crossbar.
Although Walsh had to be replaced by Danny Smith just two minutes later because of a thigh strain Deal’s fast start had clearly rattled the home side with their manager, Greg Cruttwell, shouting from his dug out “Settle down, it’s all too frantic!” and gradually the Combined Counties League outfit began to pose some questions for the Hoops’ backline.
But, with skipper Dean Hill using all his experience to superb effect, Deal held firm before snatching a second goal after 39 minutes – and it was man-of-the-match Hill who was the scorer. Again it came from a set-piece, with Hill glancing home Danny Smith’s near post free kick.
Two minutes later, however, came the pivotal moment of the tie when Balham were awarded a penalty after Lee Scott handled the ball as he slipped over in the area. It presented the home side with the opportunity to set themselves up for a wind-assisted second half fightback, but they were denied by Hoops keeper James Tonkin who blocked Tomasz Wocial’s spot kick with his knees.
So the Hoops reappeared for the second half with their two-goal lead still intact and despite the predictable increased Balham pressure it stayed that way until the 66th-minute when Wocial made up for his penalty miss by sweeping home a low half volley from outside the area.
Balham now looked set to lay siege in search of an equaliser but instead it was Deal who scored next when an 80th-minute break ended with Andy Miller setting up a shooting opportunity for Danny Smith, and the Hoops’ second highest-ever appearance maker made the most of it by firing home off the fingertips of Balham keeper Haydn Read.
It gave Deal all the encouragement they needed to see out the closing stages, and a delighted Hares added: “The team spirit was good, I thing Kingy (coach Steve King) got the tactical side of it right, and it was great to see Danny Smith, who has been a very loyal servant to this club, come up with the clinching goal.”
Deal: Tonkin, Hark, Scott, K Smith, Hill, Bigginton (Alexander 46), Paxman, Butcher, Miller, Coyne(Philpott 85), Walsh (D Smith 5).