Sunday 26th September 2004
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Working towards a good Deal

SATURDAY 6 MAY 2000 goes down as a special date in the history of Go Travel Kent League side Deal Town, writes Stephen McCartney.

This was the date when Roly Graham's 87th minute strike sealed the FA Vase in front of a crowd of 20,083 in the last Wembley Stadium Final, beating Chippenham Town 1-0.

It was the only time a team from Kent had won the competition.  However,  before the start of the following season manager Tommy Sampson and the Vase winning players left the club, so it was a case of rebuilding a side and consolidating the club under Dave Dadd.

However, Dadd resigned after one year to be replaced by Simon Bryant, who led the team to creditable third and fourth placed finishes in the two seasons he was in charge before moving to Kent League rivals Herne Bay.

With the majority of players leaving the club for pastures new, it was again a case of rebuilding and consolidating.  This time it fell to Derek Hares who was promoted to first team manager at the start of the 2003-2004 campaign.

Deal Town are now in the first round of this season's competition after Saturday's 2-1 victory at Sevenoaks Town - a club that were making their debut in the tournament.

It was a deserved victory for the former winners, and Martin James, who was making his second appearance after re-joining the club, performed well , and could easily have scored a hat-trick.

Andy Ward, however, slammed Deal into a 48th minute lead, but the advantage lasted only three minutes as former Bromley and Whitstable Town striker Andy Constable created history, scoring Sevenoaks Town's first ever goal in the FA Vase.

But Sevenoaks' hearts were broken when Nathan Mitford headed Deal into the first round of the competition with only two minutes remaining, pleasing his manager Hares.

"It's a massive win for us today!", he said.

"Since Tommy (Sampson) and Simon Bryant had left we've had two lots of rebuilding to do really.

"Last year we struggled, had to rebuild the team, but this year we've shown a lot of promise and I thought today we thoroughly deserved our win, to be honest.

"I thought the lads battled well, and scored two good goals, and I am really pleased with the way we played.

"We have a good balance now, we got some good youngsters in there but I've also brought in one or two older heads over the last few weeks.

"And I think that is what has helped us to be fair."

Hares, praised midfield general James, saying: "That was only his second game back - he was at Deal two years ago and sort of drifted out of this standard of football but we talked him back into playing again and today he played really well.

"Martin James, Dave Bathgate and Andy Ward in midfield were fantastic for us!"

The manager, however, wants a home draw in the first round, drawn on Monday, and he admitted: "Obviously things have changed at Deal since the FA Vase win of 2000, but the club are really working hard to put things right off the pitch and we are making big strides. 

"Now we have got to start doing it on the pitch!"

The club are currently sitting fourth from bottom in the Kent League table with four points from six games, but Hares is looking for some improvement, now the side has some experienced heads.

"We've had a bit of a disappointing start but I don't think our results have reflected with the way we have played though," he admitted.

"As I've said, we've got a lot of youngsters in the side and I reverted to a back three at Sevenoaks and with a little bit of experience in there I think it paid off for us."