The Hoops claimed their first win in normal time since the turn of the year and manager Derek Hares felt they thoroughly deserved the three points.
Deal’s two other victories in 2020 had been achieved in penalty shootouts but headers in each half from Connor Coyne and Alfie Foster were enough to decide Saturday’s outcome inside 90 minutes and a relieved Hares said afterwards: “It was a much-needed and deserved win in difficult conditions against a very physical side. The boys showed a lot of character to get the three points.”
The Hoops were on the front foot right from the start but, as in other recent games, they were unable to turn the chances they created into goals until four minutes before half-time when Coyne headed home Joe Reeves’ near-post corner.
And Punjab suffered another blow early in the second half when one of their players was sent off for abusive language towards a linesman. Deal continued to control the game but then, with 70 minutes gone, the home side unexpectedly drew level when Bryan Zepo fired home from outside the box.
With last season’s two league matches between the sides having ended in draws it looked briefly as if this latest meeting was going to end the same way but five minutes later the Hoops were back in front. Again the goal came from a Reeves’ corner and this time it was centre-half Foster who provided the finishing touch with a powerful header.
Punjab produced a late rally to try and draw level again but they were denied by two superb saves from James Tonkin to ensure Deal claimed the three points they needed to move back into the top half of the table.
Deal: Tonkin, Walsh, Smith, O‘Brien, Paxman, Scott, Chapman, Munday, Reeves (Howard 79), Coyne (Maughan 92), Foster.