This game was played on a warm Autumnal Saturday afternoon at the Charles Sports Ground near the coast in Deal. There had been a range of Kent Senior Cup, FA Cup and league matches to choose from as alternatives today, however this Southern Counties East Football League, Premier Division match looked to be a very promising fixture.
Both sides had made really positive starts to the league season, Erith & Belvedere had maximum points from their opening five league fixtures and sat in 4th place. Deal Town (FA Vase winners in 2000) were a place behind in 5th, with 15 points from their opening seven fixtures, to date.
Deal had attracted 320 fans in their midweek match with Kenningtons and it all pointed to an exciting match today, in front of a decent crowd and as such I had made my way on the 50 mile journey from home to be at the match.
The journey was smooth as the M20 was clear in the direction of the coast and I parked on a side road just 100 yards from the entrance to the Charles Sports Ground. I paid £8 to enter and £2 for a programme. The sun was blazing down and I actually sat in the stand initially to get some cool shade, as the teams warmed up.
I was really impressed with the ground. I was given a warm welcome on the turnstile and when I got inside I found a covered stand behind the goal, a club shop, refreshment stands, clubhouse and bar, changing rooms and a seated and covered grandstand alongside the pitch.
Deal’s match day team didn’t include Tom Chapman, a striker signed just this week from Ramsgate FC and with a proven record at the Isthmian league level. Chapman had scored in the midweek game, on his debut against Kenningtons, which Deal had won 2-0. Tom’s brother, Ben, is also a regular for Deal Town. Although it would have added to the team to have Tom Chapman playing today, Deal do not lack for goals this season.
Erith & Belvedere have their own goal machine, in Benga Ogunseye this season and added Chatham’s proven scorer, Luke Rooney to their arsenal this week, so as the teams came out in the sun, I was really predicting a high scoring encounter.
After a close fought opening Erith took the lead on eighteen minutes, with a fine finish from outside the box, from Luke Rooney, who scored a fine debut goal, to open the scoring.
The game continued very much end to end, with Erith playing long balls over the midfield and then exploiting their forward line’s fine link play, in the final third. Deal Town passed from the back, through the midfield and if they had been able to finish could have scored themselves, soon after Erith & Belvedere had gone in front.
On 41 minutes Rooney was lucky not to spoil his debut game when he received a yellow card, after a fierce and poorly judged challenge.
At half time the score remained 0-1 to Erith & Belvedere FC. Deal Town had set up a series of chances, in the closing minutes of the half, so went into the break with hope.
Deal came out after the break renewed and used winger Troy Howard to attack the right flank, with success. On 51 minutes, Jack Paxman broke free and slotted the ball home for 1-1.
Deal pushed hard at Erith & Belvedere and as the referee’s board showed 4 minutes of added time Erith & Belvedere’s players were visibly hanging on and trying to keep their away point. Deal Town had chances cleared from the goalmouth, as well as having squandered some headed opportunities.
On 93 minutes, as Deal threw themselves into one final push to secure all three points, Howard broke free and fired instinctively to the keeper’s left. The net billowed and the 266 strong crowd erupted, as Deal ended Erith & Belvedere’s 100% record in the league.