This time it wasn’t to be for Deal as they bowed out of the FA Vase at the hands of a Binfield team who they had beaten in last season’s competition in very different circumstances.
Then, the Hoops had eliminated the Berkshire team in a thrilling replay penalty shootout after two closely-contested fourth-round ties which were watched by a total of over 850 spectators.
But, because of Covid restrictions preventing any spectators, Saturday’s re-match was witnessed only by club and league officials, Hoops’ stewards and media representatives. The restrictions also meant that the teams weren’t allowed to use the changing rooms, not a welcome situation for the players on a cold and wet afternoon at the Charles Ground.
That said, the commitment showed by both teams in the difficult conditions couldn’t be faulted, but as to who deserved to go through to the next round there was no argument, a fact acknowledged afterwards by Hoops’ manager Derek Hares who said: “I thought for the first 20-25 minutes or so we were well in the game , but from that point on I thought they were the better side to be fair. We just didn’t do enough going forward in the second half and we also made a couple of crucial mistakes which they took advantage of. “
Hares might have feared this wasn’t going to be Deal’s day after two of his defenders, Steve O’Brien and Jack Penny, picked up strains in the pre-match warm-up which meant a late Hoops’ re-shuffle, while the expected injury absence of striker Sam Wilson was also a serious blow to Deal’s chances.In Wilson’s absence the Hoops’ management team decided to play without a recognised striker/target man, relying instead on the pace of wingmen Troy Howard and Joe Reeves to test the Binfield backline.
And in the opening quarter of the game Deal more than held their own, including taking the lead after just seven minutes when centre-half Alfie Foster nudged home a near-post corner from Macauley Murray while Binfield’s only real threat early on was provided by a 20-yard strike from Elliot Legg which Hoops’ keeper James Tonkin palmed athletically away.
But as the first half wore on Deal’s lack of a target man meant they struggled to retain possession going forward while in contrast Binfield’s No 9, captain Sean Moore, was producing a “man-of-the-match” performance with his skilful link-up play and movement. The Hoops, however, managed to cling on to their slender lead until nine minutes before half-time when Josh Helmore fired a low volley past Tonkin after the ball deflected into his path off a Deal defender.
And, as Hares admitted, the second half belonged to the visitors. Deal were pushed back right from the restart and the pressure eventually told on 62 minutes when Helmore robbed Murray in possession and set up Moore for a precise finish.
Hares responded soon afterwards by sending on Connor Coyne to try to provide his “missing link” up front, but by now Binfield were playing with confidence and they booked their place in the next round with a third goal after 78 minutes – this time helped by a mistake from Kane Smith. The Deal captain lost possession on the edge of the area to Ollie Harris, who took full advantage.
And it was Harris who provided the highlight of the game deep into injury-time, curling a superb shot into the far corner to round off an impressive Binfield display, with Hares adding: “Last year it was our turn and today it was Binfield’s, they produced a very good team performance and good luck to them in the next round.”
Deal: Tonkin, Paxman, Hark, Smith, Foster, Scott, Reeves (Coyne 68), Murray, Chapman, Munday (Lewis 75), Howard.