Two bizarre incidents sparked Deal’s second half collapse in their opening Southern Counties East League game of the season at Eltham on Saturday.
With the score standing at 1-1 midway through second period, Charlie Walsh’s right wing dash ended when he ran into Hoops’ manager Derek Hares standing in front of the Deal dugout. Both men went crashing to the ground and Cray regained possession to start an attack which ended with Leigh Bremner blasting the Millers back in front.
Then, three minutes later, a long Cray clearance out of defence saw Grant Bagley attempt a 30-yard volleyed back pass to Jon Sparks, only to see the ball fly over his keeper’s head and into the net.
Cray could hardly believe their luck and manager James Collins then rubbed it in with the introduction of substitute Francisco Mbela, whose pace proved too much for the Hoops’ tiring legs in the closing stages. He made it 4-1 on 79 minutes and went close to adding another before setting up Aaron Jeffrey for the Millers’ fifth goal in added time.
So the Hoops were left stunned by the final scoreline after a topsy-turvy game in which they created plenty of chances themselves but were let down by their poor conversion rate.
There was little to choose between the sides in the opening 20 minutes but Cray struck first when, from a disputed corner, centre-half Peter Smith headed in Riichie Hamill’s far-post delivery.
Hamill’s skills caused Deal problems in the opening half hour but, as against Banstead the week before, Deal began to get on top as half-time approached and Walsh thundered one 25-yard effort against the bar before equalising on 42 minutes. Alex Coyne’s clearance out of defence was neatly controlled by his brother Connor, who then sent Walsh racing clear and the striker made no mistake.
Then, in the last few seconds of the half, came the Hoops’most damaging miss of the match. Connor Coyne was again involved, clipping in a precise low cross which the on-rushing Andy Miller seemed certain to convert from five yards out, but his side-foot effort lacked sufficient conviction and Millers’ keeper Jack Bradshaw was able to parry the ball away.
Had the Hoops gone in at the break 2-1 up then the second half might have been a different story, but instead Deal continued to produce some more off-target finishing while Cray made the most of the two moments of unlikely good fortune that came their way.
Deal: Sparks, Hark, Bagley, A Coyne (Woodbury 85), Mentessi (Short 67), Miller, Hill, Scott, Munday (Smith 67), C Coyne, Walsh.