Hollands & Blair 1-2 Deal Town - I don't think we made them work hard enough to take something away from this game, says annoyed Hollands & Blair boss Simon Halsey

Saturday 14th September 2019
Hollands & Blair 1 – 2 Deal Town
Location Star Meadow, Darland Avenue, Gillingham, Kent ME7 3AN
Kickoff 14/09/2019 15:00

The Buildbase FA Vase Second Qualifying Round
Saturday 14 September 2019
Stephen McCartney reports from Darland Avenue

DEAL TOWN head coach Steve King admits his side were due a bit of luck after grabbing victory over Hollands & Blair to reach the First Round of The Buildbase FA Vase.

Hollands & Blair went into this tie sitting in seventh-place in the Southern Counties East Football League Premier Division table with 10 points from seven games, seven places above Derek Hares’ Deal Town side that have bagged six points from as many games.

This was the second meeting between the two sides as they played out a 1-1 draw down on the Kent coast in a league fixture on 20 August.

Deal Town grabbed the lead against-the-run-of-play through a free header from left-wing-back Jack Penny.

Hollands & Blair were the dominant force during the entire game and they deservedly equalised with 19 minutes remaining when big target-man Harry Goodger planted home his header from almost the same blade of grass as Penny, to score his fifth goal of the season.

Deal Town snatched the victory with three minutes remaining when substitute Ben Cardwell skipped past two centre-halves and trickled a shot across the keeper to find the bottom far corner.

King, of course not to be confused by the former Welling United manager, said: “I thought it was a scrappy game, a really tight game. We know Hollands & Blair are a good side.

“If we’re being honest, we didn’t do enough to win the game but we’ve had other games this season that we haven’t won and we probably deserved to.

“I think the home game against Hollands & Blair in the league we probably deserved to win that and that was a draw, so I think we just had a little bit of luck come our way today.

“It was a great goal at the end to win it but they’re a good side and they won’t lose many games here so that’s a really pleasing result.

“We needed a response after the 5-3 defeat at Welling Town last week. Defensively we’ve been really good but we just had a catastrophe last week conceding five and we were all over the place so we wanted a response and I thought to a man the stood up to the physical challenge.

“It wasn’t pretty and we’ll play better in terms of playing our football but I’m delighted that we’ve got the result.”

Hollands & Blair manager Simon Halsey just couldn’t believe how his side lost this game – you could point the finger of blame at his goalkeeper Adam Highsted, who went missing when called upon.

“Robbed! We just didn’t deserve to lose the game, totally did not, even at 1-0 down, even in the Sin-Bin, dominated the game,” said Halsey, who reached the Quarter-Finals and Semi-Finals when he was in charge of Herne Bay.

“To be fair, we didn’t make the goalie work too much in the first half but we played some good football and got it in the right areas, put decent balls in the box.

“We go the 1-0 down, even in the whole game I don’t see a time in the game when they got their foot in the door and dominated it.

“We’ve gone out to what I class as a really poor goal.”

The pitch at Darland Avenue is in desperate need of water and some tender loving care, especially the worn touchlines where the assistant referees run down.

Hollands & Blair were a threat in the air during the first half and created their first opening in the sixth minute when captain Calum McGeehan rose to meet Jack Simon’s first corner, which took a deflection and dropped just past the far post.

Ten minutes in, Hollands & Blair stopped Deal attacking and Justin Ascheri skipped past Joe Reeves before hitting a cross which sailed over the jumping striker Caleb Bearman-Dyce in the middle of the box.  The ball was retrieved by Cameron Heffernan on the other side of the pitch and he Sam Welch on the overlap and the right-wing-back cut inside and his low shot was comfortably held by James Tonkin at his near post.

Welch launched a long throw into the Deal Town box and McGeehan flicked his header up and sent his second header straight into Tonkin’s hands for a routine catch.

Deal Town fell asleep following the home side’s third corner of the game in the 15th minute.

Simon rolled the ball back to Lewis Taylor and the left-wing-back took a touch before whipping in a cross for the physically strong Ben Brown to rise to steer his header over the crossbar from 15-yards.

Welch and Louis Valencia linked up down the right and Valencia floated in a cross into the box where winger Ascheri found a pocket of space to glance his free header sailing past the far post from 16-yards.

“That’s most probably the best we’ve played for 90 minutes over nine games. That’s probably the most consistent we’ve played for 90 minutes,” said Halsey.

“I think everyone thought we would be a physical side on our pitch but I thought today we done some good passages of play, which I’m disappointed about going out but absolutely I’m impressed by our performance because we’re moving forward, which for me is the right direction.”

King added: “Look, we conceded three in the first half-an-hour last week so we just wanted to stay in the game and get a bit of confidence back and defend properly and we knew we had quality going forward with the players we’ve got.  There was nothing in it until the first goal.

“I think you know what you’re going to get here. Simon sets his team up well and they put a lot of crosses into the box.  You have to deal with a lot of crosses and I thought we defended them pretty well.

“You’re always going to concede the odd chance but I weren’t unduly worried.  I thought for them it had to be a bit of quality like it was for us rather than our defensive mistake so I was quite happy at that stage.”

Despite all of that pressure from Hollands & Blair, Deal Town snatched the lead, totally against-the-run-of-play with 25 minutes and 52 seconds with their first attempt on goal.

Deal Town’s right-back Reeves fed winger Ben Chapman, who got in behind Taylor to whip in a quality deep cross from within the right channel and no one in a Blair shirt picked up Penny at the far post and he steered his header past a flat-footed Highsted to score from the edge of the corner of the six-yard box.

“I thought it was a great little bit of inter-play. It was a great cross from Ben Chapman and it’s a great header by Penny.  He’s not the biggest boy but he’s great in the air, really good and it’s a great header,” said King.

“He hasn’t been in the side recently but he came on at half-time at Welling and scored and did well and I thought he was excellent again today and I thought he deserved that goal.”

Halsey added: “They’ve had a throw in, it’s gone into feet, touch, set-back, gone around my player, delivered. The wing-back tucked himself in and got into a good area. He just got caught flat-footed so there’s three opportunities to stop the cross and there’s an opportunity to make the header a hard one for him but we got caught flat-footed, feet in the ground.

“We made no attempt to put the full-back Jack Penny off and get in a great header. It’s a great header but I thought it’s a little bit behind him and he’s done well to adjust his body to get a header on goal so to me that’s just a poor goal.

“We should’ve prevented the source. The full-back and my wide player should’ve prevented that and put him off, put a bit more pressure on the ball.”

Valencia was putting in some lovely crosses into the Deal Town box, the ball was headed clear and McGeehan produced a typical centre-halves finish, by lashing his shot high over the crossbar from 20-yards.

Another headed chance fell to Hollands & Blair in the 31st minute Welch floated in a cross from the right and Deal centre-half Liam Hark lost Goodger, who rose to plant his free header sailing over the crossbar from eight-yards.

Simon floated in his fourth corner of the game in the 35th minute and Brown got in front of his marker at the far post to send his downward header bouncing past the left-hand post.

Deal Town then created their second attempt on goal when Chapman got in behind for a second time and cut into the box to thread the ball through to Nick Treadwell – who plays on the right-hand side of the midfield diamond – but he stroked his shot straight at Highsted from 10-yards out.

King said: “No disrespect to Treads but he’s probably not the player wanted on the ball at that chance! He’s got into the box like we asked and he’s hit the target, it’s a comfortable save.”

Halsey said: “They had a couple of shots on goal in the first half. Over the two halves they’ve had two attempts on goal and scored them both.”

Hollands & Blair got in behind Penny as Simon played in a low cross from the right and Bearman-Dyce’s flicked hooked shot was smothered on the deck by the visiting keeper.

Referee Steven Scott ignored a clear handball from Deal’s Chapman on the edge of the Blair box and play carried on and finished with Billy Munday drilling a right-footed drive towards the near corner from 25-yards, forcing Highsted into palming the ball towards safety.

King admitted: “We knew we weren’t going to come here and dominate the game and play great football because they’re a good side.  They’ve lost once in the league and (lost 3-1 at Glebe in The FA Cup) and they’ve been very good here and we’re realistic. We know this league, we’ve been in it a long time and you’ve got to show respect to teams and I thought first half we executed our game plan pretty much spot on.

“I think if we come here and create three or four good chances each half and we created eight good chances in the game and if we defend properly, we’re giving ourselves a chance. We’re not going to come here and create 15, 16, or 17 chances. We’d like to but it’s not realistic.”

Halsey added: “When they’re shooting from long range that’s a credit to our shape and Adam can deal with them all day so I haven’t got a problem with that.  It’s a great strike but Adam’s there to deal with that and he’s done it superbly.”

More good goalkeeping from Tonkin saw him flick the ball over the top of his near post as Simon’s looping cross was destined to find top bins on the stroke of half-time.

Halsey said: “Positive, we were all positive. The same as last week at Croydon Athletic (which finished in a 3-3 draw). Thirty-five minutes we’ve dominated the game at Croydon Athletic and gone in 2-0 down so it was all positive last week and all positive today!

“We spoke about the shutting down of the cross, the full-back getting flat-footed and we’ve dealt with that but we’ve gone out on a positive note.”

King said: “We’ve got a lot of work to do! I know Hollands & Blair have been behind, they’ve been 3-0 down in their last two games and came back in both of them, so we knew we were far from being done.

“We wanted to try to get the second goal and try to kill it but we couldn’t go too far. We talked about a few tactical bits but it was keep concentrating and weather the storm.”

Hollands & Blair turned defence-into-attack just seven minutes into the second half when the quiet Macauley Murray hit a long ball over the top of the Blair defence, which was calmly headed back to his goalkeeper by McGeehan.

Highsted threw the ball long to Valencia who ran with the ball for 35-yards and once seven yards outside the Deal box, dragged his shot past the left-hand post.

Hollands & Blair missed a glorious chance to deservedly equalise with nine minutes and 25 seconds on the clock.

Simon floated in a free-kick from the left, the ball was knocked down by Brown and an unmarked Welch thrashed his right-footed volley over the crossbar from eight-yards when he had time to bring the ball down and score with his second or third touch.

Halsey said: “He’s taking it first time, which he’s got to make that decision but I think if he was sitting in the dug-out he may have had a touch and then strike it but he’s made the decision but I want to see the goalie work though. 

“The goalie’s got to work! If he makes a save and it’s dropping around the six-yard box or penalty spot and we get the pieces but we put it over the bar!”

King added: “I’m sure Simon will say he should’ve scored. We just switched off a little bit off the second ball, didn’t track the runner, so we had a little bit of luck, we’ll take it.”

Forty-three seconds later, Hollands & Blair produced an even better move on the deck when Valencia played the ball down the left-channel to Welch, who teed up Bearman-Dyce, whose shot on the turn was beaten out by the impressive Tonkin.

Hollands & Blair were temporary reduced to ten-men in the 58th minute when Brown said something to the referee and was sent to the Sin-Bin – and Deal Town went close to scoring on the hour-mark following a header from a set-piece.

Penny was in a central position when he floated the ball into the Blair box and centre-half Luke Bigginton rose to loop his header from a tight angle across the keeper, only for the ball to drop agonisingly the wrong side of the foot of the far post.

King said: “I thought it was in! When he headed it, I thought GOAL! 

“Another great ball from Jack Penny.  I said about having four chances in each half. We probably created four in the second half and that was one of them.  On another day that drops in at the far post and it’s 2-0 and it’s possibly a little bit more comfortable, but I’m not standing here saying we deserved to be 2-0 up.”

Tonkin pulled off a brilliant double save to thwart Hollands & Blair during the period of having Brown sitting in the dug-out.

Simon played in their seventh corner of the game, the ball was flicked on at the near post by Valencia and Goodger had two bites of the cherry, which were both equally brilliantly saved by Tonkin.

King said: “I thought Tonkin was outstanding today! I think when you come here your goalkeeper has got to be very good and I thought his hands all day were outstanding and I thought his kicking was excellent.

“I don’t know exactly in the second half, he’s made four great saves. I’ve known Tonks a long time, he’s been our goalkeeper for three years but I thought today was as good as I’ve seen him.

“The double-save was world-class. If that was in the Premiership, the saves are on the highlights package but you need a goalkeeper to do that and he’s made two great saves.

“I think we’ve been due a bit of luck. People who watch all of our games will probably agree with me and today we’ve probably claimed some of it. We’ve got some luck back!”

Halsey said: “What a great couple of saves! That’s what cats are paid for, to do their job!

“In the first half I don’t feel we worked him enough. Caleb’s had one before that as well, a good save and the double save was outstanding so full credit to the goalie for doing what he’s paid to do. I think they’re paid but that’s what he’s there for, great saves.”

Now back at 11-a-side, Hollands & Blair deservedly equalised with 25 minutes and 59 seconds on the clock.

Welch fed Valencia down the right and he hung over a deep cross of high quality towards Goodger, who jumped out of Kane Smith’s pocket, to bury his header across the keeper into the far corner from the corner of the six-yard box.

Halsey said: “Pretty much the same areas as them to be fair, it literally was.

“I don’t think they pressed Louis enough but Louis has got a great foot and he’s put a great ball in, hung it up for Harry to attack. Fortunately, he’s lost Kane Smith and I thought Kane Smith was outstanding today as he was in the first game.

“Kane Smith made it very hard for Harry to win his headers but it was a great header. That’s what he’s there for and why he’s scoring regularly now every game.

“That’s one of our strengths at the moment and we’re happy Harry’s got another one.”

King added: “They were similar goals weren’t they? They’ll be pleased, great ball, great header.  

“I thought Kane Smith dealt with Goodger well all afternoon but he just peels of the back post all the time and when you’ve got that quality, it’s a great header.  I can’t argue that it wasn’t deserved at that point but I was pleased with how we responded because I actually thought we were under more pressure before the equaliser and after the equaliser we started to get a bit of a foothold back into it again.”

Deal Town got lucky with the clock showing 30:59 when the post saved them.

They fell asleep again from a Simon short corner, Valencia had time and space to take a touch before whipping in a precise deep cross and substitute wide striker Liam Stone curled his right-footed shot towards the top far corner from just inside the box, only for the ball to kiss the far post.

Nine seconds later, the ball was worked across to an unmarked Goodger, who dragged his shot across the keeper and past the far post when he only had Tonkin to beat.

“We’ve been in The Vase a few times and to get on you need a bit of luck,” admitted Halsey.

“Stoney’s come on trying to effect the game and he had a great strike. It’s hit the post. I thought it was right in but it’s hit the post and it’s not come out in the right area where we perhaps could’ve got on the pieces and it’s gone away from where we wanted it.

“Harry’s had another one that he’s pulled across the box. We got in a good area again. The ball has been put in the box and it’s fallen to Harry. He’s had a touch and he’s driven it just shy of the other post.”

It was a lucky break for Deal Town.

“Thank god! Some days they come off the inside of the post and they fly in, other days they hit the post and then fly out,” added King.

“We had one against Canterbury in the 92nd minute that goes on the outside of the post when our lad is one-on-one and we draw 0-0 and we’re bemoaning our luck and today it goes for us. It hits the post and comes out.  I think over 40 odd games they even themselves out, sometimes they go in.”

Deal Town substitute striker Cardwell then started to spring into life, skipping past his marker down the right to cut into the box and putting it on a plate for quiet striker Sam Wilson, who flicked a shot off his heel, which looped over the crossbar from six-yards out.

“In that last 10 minutes we probably looked more dangerous than all half so if it had gone into extra-time we would’ve had a chance,” said King.

“It was a good back flick. I think he went too far and he scores them in training all the time and he doesn’t know how he does it.”

Halsey added: “I will be completely honest, I’m not going to tip-toe around, I did not see them getting that weaker goal. I thought once we got into that one-all, there will be going to be one team that walk out of here – or we go back down there on Tuesday night.

“I did not think we were going to lose that game.  Even when we went down to 10 men I did not think in any way we would lose that game.”

Simon floated in a free-kick from the left towards the far post for Goodger to flick his downward header towards the bottom far corner, which was gathered at ankle height by Tonkin beside his post.

Deal Town only won this game because Hollands & Blair’s goalkeeper Highsted switched off during the two occasions that he was needed.

The winning goal was timed at 42 minutes and 31 seconds on the clock, courtesy of a magical run from Cardwell.

Treadwell was close to the touch-line and flicked the ball on, Cardwell raced down the line, skipped past centre-half McGeehan and Heffernan ducked out of taking one for the team by bringing down the Deal attacker inside the box.  Instead he let him easily cut past him and from a tight angle trickled his shot across a flat-footed Highsted into the bottom far corner.

King said: “Ben had a massive impact today. We brought him on once the Sin Bin was over. He just runs at people, he scares people, 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 was perfect for him. That’s what he does, get him in the top third he’s really dangerous.

“I don’t think any defender that’s played 85 minutes in this heat wants someone like Ben Cardwell running at them in the last five minutes.

“We were just shouting at him to get in the box because as soon as he got in the box, people don’t want to tackle you. 

“They might look at it and say can they have fouled him or try to make a tackle outside the box but once he gets in there, he’s lethal!”

Halsey admitted:  “I’m just disappointed to lose to that sort of weak goal.  He’s gone past Calum McGeehan first, my centre-half has got pulled out into that wide area and then he’s gone past Cameron Heffernan as well too easily. He’s got a sort of toe-poke on it and the goalkeeper’s flat-footed and it just trickled inside the far post.

“It’s game over pretty much with three minutes to go. I’m not saying that’s how I felt. We knew they would start running to the corners and put people behind the ball and everyone just expects us to load the box up but when we load the box up, yes it’s effective but you’re eating up everyone’s spaces and I was a little bit reluctant to do that.”

Dominant Hollands & Blair had one final chance at the death when Heffernan crossed towards the far post but McGeehan sent his header past the right-hand post as another chance to win this game quite comfortably went begging.

Next May will mark the 20th anniversary of Tommy Sampson leading Deal Town to Wembley Stadium glory with a 1-0 win over Chippenham Town in The FA Vase Final.

Tunbridge Wells in 2013 and Cray Valley last season reached the Wembley Final but lost to Spennymoor Town and Chertsey Town respectively.

“The FA Vase is incredibly important to this football club. It’s the only club in Kent to have won it and we want to go as far as we can,” said King.

We saw Canterbury City (semi-finalists) and Cray Valley (beaten finalists) last year that if you can get the draw right and you can win two or three games anything can happen.

“We really wanted to get that win because it was important for us.  Secondly, this competition is massively important to this football club.

“It would be an absolute fairy tale. I’m not standing here and say we’re going to win The FA Vase but Ben Smith is a good friend of mine and I was a bit envious and jealous of him last year.

“The big thing for us is we’re in the hat on Monday. It will be really nice to play someone who’s not in our League. It was a horrible draw for us and I’m sure they say the same. Home or away, I just want to play somebody out of our league and really experience the Vase for what it is.”

These two sides return to league action next weekend and play two sides inside the bottom four.

Hollands & Blair host bottom-four side Fisher, who held Chatham Town to a 1-1 draw at St Paul’s Stadium today.  Allan Fenn’s men have collected five points from seven games, while Deal Town host second-from-bottom side Crowborough Athletic, whom have three points on the board from six league outings.

“The Vase is about the club and about the players. I’m judged on what I do in the league, so I don’t want to go out of it but I’m impressed with some passages of play that we’ve done,” said Halsey.

“Losing in a matter to a soft goal, it’s one of the worst things.  I like Deal Town, Derek Hares and Steve King but it’s just the manner we’ve gone out of that competition, it’s just annoying.

“I don’t think we made them work hard enough to take something away from this game and they’ve gone through to what I call a soft goal from us.”

Hollands & Blair: Adam Highsted, Sam Welch, Lewis Taylor, Ben Brown, Cameron Heffernan, Calum McGeehan, Jack Simon, Louis Valencia, Caleb Bearman-Dyce (Ethan Stuart 81), Harry Goodger, Justin Ascheri (Liam Stone 75).
Subs: Kieran Sharp, Connor Heffernan, Shaun Wicks

Goal: Harry Goodger 71

Temporary Dismissal: Ben Brown 58

Deal Town: James Tonkin, Joe Reeves (Ben Cardwell 69), Jack Penny, Luke Bigginton, Kane Smith, Liam Hark, Nick Treadwell, Macauley Murray, Sam Wilson, Billy Munday (Steve O’Brien 75), Ben Chapman.
Subs: Harry Alexander, Ryan Lewis

Goals: Jack Penny 26, Ben Cardwell 87

Booked: Nick Treadwell 90

Attendance: 102
Referee: Mr Steven Scott (Tooting, London SW17)
Assistants: Mr Kuba Bogucki (Balham, London SW17) & Ms Alexandra Lupano (Streatham, London SW16)