A superb late strike by substitute Ben Cardwell carried the Hoops through to the first round proper of the FA Vase on Saturday.
Cardwell, who had come on for Joe Reeves after 69 minutes, went on a typical solo run with just three minutes left before drilling a low shot into the far corner to give the Hoops victory over a Blair side who had held them to a 1-1 draw at the Charles Ground last month.
Saturday’s re-match was played on a poor pitch which made good football difficult but the outstanding move of the first half was enough to give Deal a slender interval lead. Reeves found Ben Chapman whose pinpoint cross was headed powerfully home by Jack Penny.
Hoops keeper James Tonkin had little to do in the opening 45 minutes but that situation changed considerably after the break as Blair stepped up a gear and began to put the Deal defence under severe pressure. But the home side were repeatedly frustrated by some great work from the Hoops goalie until they eventually found a way through with 71 minutes gone. Harry Goodger, Blair’s leading scorer, headed home his fifth goal of the season from Louis Valencia’s cross and the home side then almost took the lead when substitute Liam Stone saw his shot hit the Hoops woodwork.
But it was Cardwell’s introduction which proved the game’s pivotal moment, with Hoops head coach Steve King saying: “Ben had a massive impact today. He just runs at people and scares them, especially when he gets anywhere near the box. People don’t want to throw a leg out and don’t want to tackle him. He’s fantastic for us in that role, it’s perfect for him. I don’t think any defender that’s played 85 minutes in that heat wants someone like Ben Cardwell running at them in the last five minutes.”
And so it proved as Cardwell raced past Blair’s Calum McGeehan and Cameron Heffernan in the dying stages before firing the Hoops into the next round with his first goal of the season.
Deal: Tonkin, Reeves (Cardwell 69), Penny, Bigginton, Smith, Hark, Treadwell, Murray, Wilson, Munday (O’Brien 75), Chapman.