A late three-goal burst saw the Hoops come from behind to win their first ever meeting with Rusthall at the Charles Ground on Saturday.
Trailing 2-1 against the league “newcomers” with only eight minutes remaining, Deal drew level through man-of-the-match Connor Coyne before Euan Sadahow and Joe Reeves wrapped up the Hoops’ fourth victory in five games.
But they were made to wait a long time before confirming their superiority over the Tunbridge Wells-based visitors who twice led and showed the sort of resilient attitude that had already brought them four away league wins this season.
They went in front with 18 minutes gone through an excellent strike from right-back Michael Tubb and, although Deal equalised just past the half hour mark when Sadahow linked up well with Coyne before finishing clinically, Hoops’ manager Derek Hares admitted that “1-1 at half-time was about right”.
And then, not for the first time this season, Deal paid the price for a “half asleep start” to the second half when, just 47 seconds after the restart, Jacob Wright was allowed too much time and space to pick his spot in the far corner.
That gave Rusthall something to cling on to as Deal missed a series of chances during the second half and it looked like it was going to be one of those afternoons for the home side until Coyne finally received due reward for his hard-working efforts up front with a smart turn and strike in the box.
The Hoops now scented they could still turn one point into three and, with three minutes left, they were awarded a penalty after Sam Wilson was sent sprawling in the area and Sadahow did the rest.
With Rusthall now forced to throw men forward in search of an equaliser they were caught out by a rapid Hoops’ counter-attack in added time which ended with Andy Miller setting up a simple finish for substitute Joe Reeves.
Hares added: “If I’m honest I thought we were the better side throughout the game but going back in front straight after half-time gave them a lot of heart and, although we kept pressing and pressing, you began to think, ‘Are we ever going to do it?’.
“But the boys showed a lot of character to keep going and I was pleased that Connor got his goal because I think that was one of his best performances of the season.”
Deal: Tonkin, Paxman, K Smith, Hark, D Smith, Foster (Chapman 64), A Miller, Adams (Reeves 54), Coyne, Wilson, Sadahow (Hill 87).