Hoops manager Derek Hares readily admitted that Saturday’s victory over AFC Croydon was one of his side’s less impressive performances of recent weeks.
After watching Deal register their fourth win in their last five matches Hares said: “I don’t think we played particularly well in the first half and the last 20 minutes were hard work for us as well, but the boys kept going and managed to dig out the result.”
On a bobbly surface which made crisp, accurate passing difficult for both teams, Croydon started the sharper and could have taken the lead after just three minutes but Umaro Alpha saw his shot strike the inside of a post.
And for the opening 15 minutes the Hoops continued to look lethargic only to snatch the lead when Billy Munday powerfully headed home Jack Penny’s corner.
That helped to settle Hares’ men a little but they still needed some stout defending from Alfie Foster and Lee Scott to keep Croydon at bay before adding a disputed second goal just before the half hour mark. Croydon claimed that Connor Coyne should have been penalised for his challenge on Liam Coates in the build-up, but referee Ryan Chantril-Smith waved “play on” and Ben Chapman coolly picked his spot from Coyne’s through-ball.
Although Foster then drew a fine save from Croydon ‘keeper Nic Taylor, the Hoops were somewhat fortunate to reach half-time with a two-goal advantage, and three minutes after the restart it needed a tremendous goalline clearance by Liam Hark from Coates’ header to preserve that lead.
Still Croydon continued to show plenty of spirit but when Alpha failed to capitalise on a misunderstanding in the Hoops defence it looked like Deal were going to chalk up another three points, and Hark almost rounded off his stand-out individual display by striking the woodwork midway through the half.
But Croydon finally got the goal their efforts deserved seven minutes from time when substitute Emanuel Oloyede drove the ball home low from the edge of the box, and the Hoops then had to endure a nervy finish before clinching their third successive home win over the south London side.
Hares added: “Croydon are a big, physical side and I’m just pleased to have got the three points, especially after they scored because then you are fearing the worst. It was a workmanlike performance on our part, nothing more, but sometimes you’ve got to do that during the course of a season.”
Deal: Tonkin, Hark, Penny, Scott, Foster, Munday, Chapman, Murray, Coyne (Maughan 83), Alexander (O’Brien 76), Cardwell (Howard 46).