Hoops manager Derek Hares was still in positive mood after watching Wells put a dent in Deal’s impressive home record.
Breakaway goals from Jason Thompson and Ryan Cheek meant that Wells became only the second side to win at the Charles Ground this season but Hares said: “Although they caught us on the hop a couple of times I was really pleased with the performance and if we play like that every week we’ll win more games than we lose.
“Tunbridge Wells are a big, physical side but there was very little in it and I don’t think they could have any complaints if it had finished 2-2.”
On a wet, sticky pitch the Hoops were still able to string plenty of sharp passing movements together while Ben Cardwell and man-of-the-match Ben Chapman posed a constant threat with their pacy runs, but Deal were denied more than one goal by some determined defending and when Wells had the chance to break they did so effectively.
Deal started the contest on the front foot and skipper Luke Bigginton tested Wells ‘keeper Simon Overland with an early 20-yard volley, but the Hoops were then caught short of numbers at the back with 14 minutes gone and paid the penalty when Thompson finished off Josh Froggatt’s cross.
That goal helped to settle Wells who, after leading the table in the early weeks of the season, had won only once in their previous seven matches but Deal continued to give as good as they got and they were rewarded with an equaliser four minutes before the break. Fittingly, it was provided by their two “danger men”, with Chapman skipping past one defender before pulling the ball back for Cardwell to score.
Wells, however, made a much better start to the second half compared to the opening period and they regained the lead in the 57th minute with a goal similar to their first. Again Froggatt broke clear down Deal’s left flank and although ‘keeper James Tonkin blocked Thompson’s close-range effort, Ryan Cheek reacted quickest to force home the loose ball.
Then, within the space of seven minutes, referee Aaron Conn made two decisions which Hares felt crucially effected the final outcome. First he waved away Deal claims for a penalty for a foul on Chapman after the midfielder had again weaved his way into the box, and then midway through the half the Hoops were reduced to 10 when Biggington was shown a straight card for a robust touchline tackle on Wells substitute Danny Powell.
Hares claimed a yellow card would have been a fairer punishment to add to the five other yellows that the referee also issued during the game, and “Biggy’s” departure meant Deal were left to play the last 20 minutes a player short and on a heavy, tiring pitch.
But again the Deal manager praised the way his side stuck to their task and managed to “carve out a few more half chances” before Thompson almost put an unfair gloss on the final scoreline when he hit the Hoops woodwork in injury time.
Deal: Tonkin, Hark, Penny (O’Brien 88), Foster, Biggington, Munday (Maughan 79), Chapman, Murray, Coyne (Lewis 79), Walsh, Cardwell.