An early header from Sheppey centre-half Jez Hammond was all that was needed to decide the Hoops’ latest league fixture on Tuesday night.
But if that short sentence suggests it was a mostly uneventful affair then that certainly wasn’t the case. Three missed penalties, the Sheppey goalkeeper sent off and the first ever “sin binning” in a Southern Counties East League match at the Charles Ground all contributed to what Hoops head coach Steve King described afterwards as “…one of the maddest games of football I have ever been involved in.”
Sheppey, who had crushed AFC Croydon 6-0 on Saturday, started in confident fashion and needed only four minutes to find the net again when Hammond headed home an Ian Batten corner as they took advantage of a decidedly “dozy” start by the Hoops.
Hammond hit the bar with another header soon afterwards but the big defender then nearly went from hero to villain as three times in the space of 20 minutes he was involved in mix-ups with his ‘keeper, Joshua Pelling, from goal kicks.
Although the Hoops were unable to take advantage of those blunders they came more into the contest as the half progressed but were still grateful to go in at the break trailing only 1-0 thanks to an athletic tip-over save by James Tonkin from Harrison Carnegie in the dying seconds.
Deal, however, were once more “slow out of the blocks” at the start of the second half and three times Sheppey nearly doubled their lead before Deal began to pick up the pace again. Luke Bigginton and Jack Penny both went close before the Hoops were awarded a 64th-minute penalty after “Biggy” was brought down in the area, only for Penny to see his spot kick saved by Pelling.
Sheppey’s Dan Bradshaw, the league’s leading scorer with 12 goals already this season, then wasted his first chance of the night and his frustration boiled over soon afterwards when he was sent to the “sin bin” for 10 minutes by referee Tom George – the first player to suffer such a punishment in a SCEL game at the Charles Ground under the new FA punishment for dissent. And Sheppey were then briefly reduced to nine players when Pelling was shown a straight red card by the referee, again for dissent, this time towards one of the linesmen.
But the visitors managed to keep Deal out until Bradshaw was allowed to come back on for the last few minutes, which again produced plenty of drama. Sheppey were awarded two separate penalties for fouls in the Hoops area but on both occasions man-of-the-match Tonkin dived low down to his left to deny first Billy Bennett and then Bradshaw and so round off a truly “madcap” 90 minutes.
Deal: Tonkin, Alexander (Cardwell 46), Penny, Bigginton, Smith, Hark, Treadwell (Reeves 74), Murray, Wilson, Chapman, Munday (Coyne 70).