The Hoops battled to their third draw in three home matches this season in Monday’s baking hot conditions at the Charles Ground.
With skipper Luke Bigginton leading the way with a man-of-the-match performance in defence, Deal continued their recent improvement against a Canterbury side who had beaten title favourites Chatham in their previous league game.
And Derek Hares’ men could easily have grabbed a winner in the second half, firstly when Ben Chapman was unlucky not to be awarded a penalty and then when Dave Pilcher missed a gilt-edged opportunity in the dying stages.
Hares said: “I thought we could have nicked it in the second half and I was pleased with the performance against another good side. I think we have raised our level in the last three games and now we’ve got to keep it going.”
It was Canterbury, however, who started the brighter despite playing their fourth match in eight days and James Tonkin was the busier keeper in the early stages. But the Hoops gradually began to establish a foothold in the game and Sam Wilson and Billy Munday both went close before the break.
The second half proved a test of stamina for both sides in the unusually high temperatures, with the result that big gaps soon began to appear in midfield, and it was Deal who threatened to make the most of them. With 66 minutes gone Chapman was brought down by former Hoops defender Charlie Dickens as he charged into the City area. Dickens was shown a yellow card but the referee decided his initial contact had been made just outside the box and so the Hoops had to settle for a free kick instead of a penalty.
Then, two minutes from time, Chapman produced a terrific run from inside his own half before setting up Pilcher, who had come on as a substitute five minutes earlier, with the chance to score against his former club but the midfielder dragged his half-volley a couple of yards wide.
A late Deal winner would have pleased the majority of the 228 crowd, a figure which also gave Hares cause for satisfaction afterwards, with the Hoops boss adding: “We are regularly getting gates of over 200 now and it’s been a long time since that happened. It’s great for the players and also for the club as a whole.”
Deal: Tonkin, Alexander, O’Brien, Bigginton, Smith (Hark 38), Foster, Munday, Murray (Treadwell 74), Wilson, Cardwell (Pilcher 83), Chapman.