Manager Derek Hares was more than satisfied after watching the Hoops hold SCEL Premier Division leaders Fisher to a draw at the Charles Ground on Saturday.
“Fisher are a good side and you could see why they are top of the league,” Hares said, “but in terms of character and desire our boys gave it all they’ve got. We almost managed to hang on and their equaliser was a bit of a scrappy goal, but in the end the draw was probably a fair result.”
The in-form Fish had won seven of their previous eight league games and although James Tonkin was the busier of the two goalies, the Hoops, with man-of-the-match Lee Scott leading the way, competed well all over the park.
Fisher centre-forward Kushal Campbell-Palmer, who had scored the second goal in their 2-0 home win over Deal in November, blasted two early efforts wide before the visitors were denied by Scott’s goalline clearance from Chandler Kasai’s 13th-minute header.
But the Hoops then began to settle and they were given just the encouragement they needed by a 29th-minute penalty award. Ben Chapman was brought down in the box by Ritchie Hamill and although Dave Pilcher saw his spot kick parried by Fish ‘keeper Dan Wheeler, Pilcher reacted quickest to register his first goal for the club.
Although Fisher were winning most of the aerial battles in midfield they weren’t able to turn their greater possession into an equaliser in the run-up to half-time, and the Hoops continued to defend equally as stubbornly in the second half.
When the Fish did create a clear shooting opportunity Tonkin always came to Deal’s rescue but he was finally beaten 10 minutes from time. Fisher sent all their big men forward for a Hamill free-kick into the six-yard box where the ball was eventually scrambled home by substitute Luke Haidarovic.
The Hoops then managed to survive a couple of testing inswinging corners to earn their seventh league draw of the season, the highest number by any club, and although Hares had been left frustrated after some of those contests that wasn’t the case on Saturday. He added: “That’s got to be a good point for us in front of our highest crowd of the season, and now we’ve got to carry it on in the cup game against Corinthian on Tuesday.”
Deal: Tonkin, Chapman, Hark, Bigginton (B Munday 75), Foster, Scott, C Miller, Pilcher (Coyne 73), A Miller, Wilson, Reeves.