The Hoops begin their new Southern Counties East League campaign with an away game against Crowborough Athletic on Saturday.
And, on paper at least, Deal could not have been handed a tougher opening day fixture bearing in mind that the Crows finished runners-up to Ashford United last season and lost only three league matches at their Community Stadium all campaign.
But Derek Hares and his squad will be able to draw encouragement from two different areas: firstly, from their excellent team performance in Tuesday’s 4-1 FA Cup replay victory over Corinthian, and secondly from the fact that Saturday’s clash will also be like an “away game” for Crowborough who must start the season groundsharing with Maidstone United because of delays in laying a new 3G pitch at the Community Stadium.
So the Hoops will be making the shorter journey to the Stones’ Gallagher Stadium rather than to East Sussex, but they will be without Charlie Walsh and Joe Reeves who both start three-match suspensions after being sent off in the first meeting with Corinthian, while striker Connor Coyne is also ruled out by a knee injury.
However, two of the squad’s “new boys”, Steve Butcher and Sam Wilson, have already made their mark by scoring against Corinthian in midweek and Hares and Steve King will be hopeful that the Hoops can at least earn a repeat of the 1-1 draw that they achieved in last season’s away clash with the Crows.