For the second time in four days James Tonkin was the Hoops’ star man in this SCEL Challenge Cup tie, with the young goalie again saving three spot kicks in a penalty shootout to carry Deal through to the quarter-finals.
On a freezing cold night at the Charles Ground 90 minutes and then extra-time weren’t enough to separate the two sides, with Bearsted twice coming from behind to force the shootout which Deal won 3-1 thanks to Tonkin’s latest heroics.
But assistant manager Steve King admitted afterwards on “Twitter” that the Hoops had been made to work hard for this latest cup success, saying: “Not sure how that happened but James Tonkin a hero again. Great guts from the boys tonight as we were nowhere near our best but still made it through, what a group!”
Right from the start Bearsted displayed the confidence of a team who had won five of their previous six matches and the visitors’ No9 Emmanual Oluwasemo should have done better with at least one of the three chances he was presented with in the opening 15 minutes while David Baronowksi saw his 20-yarder strike the top of the Hoops’ bar.
Relieved to still be on level terms after their shaky start the Hoops slowly began to string a few passes together and with 25 minutes gone they grabbed the lead when Jack Penny’s corner was volleyed home at the far post by Kane Smith.
It was in all truth, however, a somewhat fortuitous advantage and the Bears deservedly got back on terms eight minutes before the break when Jon Rogers curled a 25-yard “beauty” into the top corner.
The second half and then extra-time developed into a war of attrition as the pitch became more and more icy, but it was the Hoops who went in front again eight minutes into the extra-period when Steve O’Brien sent Lee Scott scampering down the left flank and the substitute delivered a low cross which Ben Chapman finished off with his fourth strike in seven games.
With both sides having been involved in extra-time matches at the weekend it was understandable the players began to show signs of fatigue in the closing stages but Bearsted always remained a threat going forward and they created the necessity for the shootout when Tonkin could half-block James Bessey-Saldanha’s near-post effort and then had to watch as the ball rolled slowly over the line.
Bessey-Saldanha also beat “Tonks” when he took Bearsted’s first penalty in the shootout but that was as good as it got for the Bears, with the Hoops’ keeper then saving their next three spot kicks while O’Brien, Chapman and Smith all scored with their efforts to clinch Deal’s victory and provoke a repeat of the celebrations which had followed Saturday’s Vase triumph at Binfield.
Deal: Tonkin, Hark, O’Brien, Maughan, Smith, Munday (Coyne 69), Paxman, Murray (Scott 23), Walsh (Bigginton 99), Chapman, Penny (Reeves 81).