Holmesdale 1-4 Deal Town - We still haven't ruled out coming third but if we manage to do that, that would be an unbelievable achievement for us, says Deal Town coach Steve King

Wednesday 16th March 2022
Holmesdale 1 – 4 Deal Town
Location 68 Oakley Road, Bromley, Kent BR2 8HQ
Kickoff 16/03/2022 19:45

Southern Counties East Football League Premier Division
Wednesday 16 March 2022
Stephen McCartney reports from Oakley Road

DEAL TOWN head coach Steve King says he hasn’t ruled out coming third in the Southern Counties East Football League Premier Division table which would be an unbelievable achievement for the club.

Derek Hares’ men remain in fourth-place in the table with 62 points from their 29 league games, having closed the gap on third-placed Glebe to five points, who are fourteen points adrift of leaders Chatham Town and Sheppey United, whom are both fighting it out for the title, locked on 81 points with seven games left.

Deal Town put in a professional and clinical performance on a rain lashed night in Bromley against Lee Roots’ side that are in eleventh-place in the table.  Holmesdale have picked up 39 points with eight league games left to play.

Holmesdale took the lead inside the opening five minutes through attacking midfielder Bailey Dell, before Deal Town scored three times during a 10 minute blitz at Oakley Road.

The versatile Jack Paxman found the top far corner with a sublime finish, before attacking midfielder Ben Chapman drove a shot into the bottom far corner.

Deal Town’s third and fourth goal came from trademark set-pieces, which were tucked away by centre-half Sam Gibson, while central midfielder Billy Munday notched his 15th goal of the season, heading home a fourth goal in the final 14 minutes.

“I thought we were excellent.  This is a difficult place to come on a Wednesday night, it’s a long way,” said King.

“I actually thought we started the game well, gave a really sloppy goal away, which just wasn’t like us.  I’ll have to watch it back on the video to see what happened but after that I thought we controlled the game.

“I thought we were really good going forward.  I thought we were good on the ball and I thought we could’ve scored a couple more but it’s a brilliant away win for us.

“I’ve got a lot of respect for Holmesdale.  They’re not a bad side at all, they’ve done well coming up and we’re really delighted with that.”

Deal Town last secured 62 points back in the 2001-02 season when the Kent League had 16 clubs, finishing in third-place behind Maidstone United and VCD Athletic.

King added: “This has been our best season for 20 seasons since Simon Bryant was in charge in the early 2000’s just after the Vase win so we’ve broken a massive target to break 60 points and we’ve done it with nine games left to go.”

Holmesdale assistant manager Michael Parker added: “I think firstly all my credit goes to Deal Town. I think they’re a great side and I think they play some really good football.

“I think you couldn’t have asked for a better start in the game, a great goal, maybe you could argue against-the-run-of-play a little bit in the first five minutes and then we just go within ourselves.

“We’re on a huge learning phase at the moment. We’ve got young players on the pitch but we go within ourselves and the game sort of runs way from us before we got to half-time.

“It was a better second half but a little period we need to start to grow from in my opinion.

“I think you call that (wet night) proper non-league to be honest with you.  The conditions did play their part 100% but the truth is we just got, I wouldn’t say overworked but I’d just say we got caught up a little bit in a little bit of a panic mode going 1-0 up.

“We’re a side that’s new to this division and learning all the time. Deal have shown all of their experience today and using it to get a good win on the road.”

Holmesdale got off to a flying start, taking the lead with only four minutes and 14 seconds on the clock.

Deal Town’s left-back Jack Penny, who was substituted at the break with a hip injury, drilled a diagonal crossfield pass, intended for right-winger Troy Howard.

However, the ball was intercepted by Holmesdale’s left-back Jamie Rawsthorne, who played the ball on the deck towards striker Owen Punselie on the counter-attack.  He dummied the ball and Dell latched onto the through ball and clinically drilled his right-footed shot into the roof of the net from 15-yards, screaming over James Tonkins’ right shoulder.

“I mean, it’s a great goal, absolutely, it’s great.  We almost scored a very similar sort of goal a few weeks ago,” said Parker.

“It’s a good goal. Good for Bailey, it’s his second goal in three starts for us, a really talented kid, who deserves to grow now from football.  I’m happy for him.  Rawthorne’s a great player, he’s been a great player for us for a couple of seasons now and Owen’s probably the unsung hero in that goal but worked his socks off and probably doesn’t get as many plaudits as he should.  I was happy with the goal, we were ruthless in the final third.”

King said: “A decent run from their 10 (Dell).  I thought he was lively first-half and caused us a few problems.

“I can’t really comment on too much. I need to have a look at it. It’s one of those where the game has been stopped, we know the new drop ball rule and some of the players didn’t switch on to it straight away.

“You’ve got possession of it and we tried to force the diag and we got countered and we haven’t picked up a midfield runner. 

“It was a good start from them and I thought it was a good finish.  I actually thought we started very bright before the goal but we regrouped very well and past that Tonks has made a save with his feet in the second half and other than that was their only two real chances that they’ve had in the whole game.”

Deal Town started to dominant proceedings and were a threat down the right flank, with Howard often linking up with his right-back Niblett.

Penny’s second long diagonal found its target and Howard played in a low cross towards the near post for Munday, who lashed his shot over the top of the right-hand post but courtesy of a goal-line flick from Holmesdale’s centre-half Jordan Eels.

“We work really hard getting bodies in the box. I think we had three people there and it almost looked like they got in each other’s way,” admitted King.

“It was a good bit of defending. We should’ve scored and you do think at that point ‘is it not going to be our night, we’ve gone 1-0 down.’ But we just kept going and kept on the front foot and the goals came eventually.”

Parker added: “That’s typical Eelsey. He’s been out of the side for a couple of games, not for performance reasons. He made a great block there. 

“My argument would be can we stop the cross?  That’s what I normally say for any ball coming in the box but then in these conditions you ride your luck.”

Ten minutes in, Macauley Murray’s ball out of defence was sublimely controlled by Paxman, who fed Chapman, who laid the ball back to Paxman, who cracked a first-time right-footed drive from 25-yards, which flashed just past the foot of the left-hand post.

Holmesdale had brief respite when an unmarked Rawsthorne pinged a long diagonal to find versatile right-winger Rory Ward, who cut inside and tried to curl his shot into the top far corner from 15-yards, only for his shot to clear the crossbar.

“I think we’re going to start calling Rory Ward ‘Mr Utility’, because we’ve played him in about five positions this season,” revealed Parker.

“He’s looked really good out on the wing in recent weeks and he’s been a threat. It's his natural position but just lacked the finish today.”

Deal Town built down the left through Paxman (who started the game on the left-wing before slotting in at left-back after Penny was forced off through injury) and Chapman before Penny shifted the ball onto his right-foot and his angle drive was comfortably saved by Nathan Edwards down on his knees.

Dominant Deal Town deserved their equaliser in the 19th minute.

Niblett played the ball down the line and striker Rene Rivera laid the ball back to Niblett, who whipped in a cross from the right.

The ball sailed over Munday’s head on the edge of the box and Paxman cut inside and arrowed his right-footed shot into the top right-hand corner from 20-yards.

“I think that was the best goal that we’ve scored all season,” hailed King.

“I think there were about 20 passes in the build-up. We were patient. We went to the front man and bounced it back, worked it across the pitch and it was a great finish.

“People know that we play a certain way so to score a goal where we got the ball down and moved it and put a number of passes together, we’re really delighted.  We probably won’t score a better goal for the rest of the season.”

Sixty league goals have been scored at Oakley Road this season and Parker rates that one as the best he’s seen this season.

“I don’t think you can get any more stanchion than that. It was unbelievable. One of the best goals I’ve seen down here this season. Credit to him, it’s a great finish.

“The ball comes into the box, can we stop that cross? We don’t and then we ride our luck. In wet conditions we don’t deal with it again and the lad punished us, credit to him.”

Just 55 seconds later, Niblett played a low ball in from the right and Howard cracked a right-footed volley from 30-yards, which skimmed the top of the crossbar, with Holmesdale struggling to get out of their own half.

“Another great chance. It would’ve been nice to have gone goal, goal. It was a good strike. We got on the front foot then and I thought we were really at it and we looked really good at that stage,” added a pleased King.

Parker admitted: “In that stage of the game we’re definitely going through our blip period and it’s something that we need to address.”

Deal Town’s dominance was rewarded as they swiftly notched their second goal of the game – just 172 seconds after restoring parity.

Niblett was once again involved, feeding the ball into Howard, who played the ball inside to Rivera, who put it on a plate for Chapman, who took a touch inside the box before stroking a clinical right-footed angled drive across Edwards to find the bottom far corner to score his eighth goal of the season.

“I thought our movement, the movement of our front players, was really good,” said King.

“We haven’t played Rene through the nine much in the middle but he played there on Saturday and did a really good job.

“Ben Chapman scores a lot of goals from midfield, making that late run and I thought the first two goals I was really, really pleased with from a footballing point of view. The other two, set-pieces, is what people know us for but I was really pleased with the first two goals.”

Parker added: “Deal Town are an experienced team in this league. I don’t think we’ve played many better sides than them this year and credit to them.

“They’ve scored some good goals tonight and they’re an experienced SCEFL Prem side, which we’re aspiring to get to in a few years’ time. Good on them, we were in a little cold moment where we’ve gone 1-0 up and just get caught sleeping.”

Deal Town centre-half Gibson played the ball down the left-channel for Paxman, who played the ball inside to Rivera (who linked up well with his team-mates), linking up with the unmarked Munday, who drove a right-footed drive flashing past the left-hand post from 30-yards.

Holmesdale’s central midfielder Cian McCarthy was to be the only man cautioned by referee Matthew Charles for sliding in to bring down Chapman down the left-channel after Rivera released him down the line with a sublime pass with the outside of his boot.

Murray drilled in the resulting right-footed free-kick towards the near post where Howard flicked his shot across Edwards from inside the six-yard box.  The keeper parried the ball low to his left and Gibson stroked the ball into the back of the net from a couple of yards out.

“That’s probably more of a Deal Town goal from a good set-piece delivery,” admitted King.

“We work really hard on them, had good runners, got people in the area and on a night like tonight on a surface as it is there was always going to be chance in and around the box and that gave us a two goal cushion, which really helped us going in at half-time.”

Parker said: “Nathan’s put his hands up in the half-time talk saying he parried it into a poor area but we made it very clear, as a club we can not thank Nathan Edwards for everything that he’s done for us this season and we will never ever get on his case for that bad parry because he’s made multiple saves in this game and in other games he’s single-handedly kept us in games, so we’re never going to criticise Nathan for a bad parry.”

Deal Town finished the first-half on the front foot and created a chance just before the break.

Holding midfielder Murray swept the ball out wide to Paxman, who easily cut inside Holmesdale’s right-back Rolex Buiti and teed up Murray, who slipped over and prodded the ball just past the foot of the left-hand-post from eight-yards.

King said: “That was unlucky, wasn’t it? Being greedy it would’ve been nice to have another one.  I thought we had them on the ropes and we didn’t really want half-time because we were dominant at that stage and it gave them a chance to regroup and they did that.  I thought they started the second half well but it would’ve been nice to have got another one but being a bit greedy.”

Holmesdale went into the break with a mountain to climb.

“Anyone who walked that pitch before the game knew the middle was not an area that you wanted to play in,” said Parker.

“We’ve got a lot of young players at the moment and we’re learning all the time.  At 3-1 all I’m thinking is get in at half-time, if we can nick a second goal great, but at 3-1, the game is dead and buried.

“I’ve got to be honest with you I gave them a kick up the backside. The boys are big enough to accept the fact when they know they’ve played poorly and it was the same against Tunbridge Wells (when we lost 4-2 here).”

King added:  “We talked about the goal, we were a little bit disappointed with the goal and I told them at half-time to just manage the game.

“It was one of those nights where you didn’t want to have anyone sent-off and you’re down to 10 men and you’re under the cosh.

“I thought second half we kept our discipline really well and didn’t give the referee any decisions to make and I thought he was very good tonight.

“When it’s a wet surface it takes one person to miss-time something so we mainly talked about keeping our discipline.

“We knew they would come out second half. We knew Lee would get into them at half-time and we had to weather 10-15 minutes, which we did and once we got the fourth goal we were just seeing the game out and making sure that we didn’t do anything stupid.”

The heavens opened for the second half and Holmesdale started brightly and were to be denied a lifeline in the 13th minute.

The impressive Ward collected the ball inside his own half and drove down the right wing and ignored winger Reuel Powell-Downey, who had his left arm raised and was calling out for the ball from his team-mate.

Instead, Ward dinked the ball towards James Shield but Holmesdale’s holding midfielder was to be denied by Tonkin, who rushed off his line and smothered the ball at Shield’s feet just on the edge of his penalty area in a central position.

“We talked about using the width and try to drag people round and come out of the traps firing,” said Parker. 

“The gaffer says it all the time, we’re a side that doesn’t know when it’s beat. We will keep going all the way until the end and we had a really good response after half-time. We came out flying.

“I will say Deal had the tough conditions in the second-half. It was the same for us in the first-half, wind blowing into our face, rain everywhere. It was a good reaction first 15 minutes in that spell, the quality died off a little but I actually felt we probably deserved another goal in the game.

”Shieldsey’s been our centre-half for a lot of this season. People don’t remember but James Shield is our midfielder. We only played him centre-half in the whole of the last campaign and he was absolutely brilliant and we never moved him because he was a rock.

“We wanted to get his legs back into midfield. There’s no secret since we’ve moved him into central midfield we’ve been far more free-flowing attacking and he's scored a goal the other week.”

King added: “I thought James did very well.  He picked the ball out of the net and made that save.  His distribution was outstanding and he did brilliantly on that. 

“I like Wood, I’ve seen Holmesdale a few times and I think he’s a good player and we knew he was a threat.  I was a little bit surprised he played a bit wide because we expected him to play centrally but he’s done well. We’ve all seen Tonks for a long time, he’s a very, very good goalkeeper and he did very well there.”

Deal Town nearly ran away with the game with four chances being created in eight minutes around the hour-mark.

Howard released Chapman down the left and Chapman cut the ball back from the by-line for Rivera, who lacked composure on the edge of the box and lashed his right-footed drive over the crossbar.

“Another good move.  We just wanted that fourth goal really.  If I’m being critical, we could’ve been a little bit clinical earlier just to kill it because when it’s 3-1 you’re thinking if we give a goal away and it goes 3-2, you never know,” said King.

“Rene’s was a good one, he should’ve hit the target but I thought he was outstanding tonight.”

Paxman played the ball down the line and Rivera played an intelligent square pass into substitute right-winger Alex Smith, whose flicked pass found Chapman inside the box but his first-time shot rolled across the keeper and past the foot of the far post.

“I thought Alex Smith did well when he came on. He’s only been in for the last couple of weeks but I’ve known him for quite a long time and he’s a really tidy player and he linked up well with Ben Chapman there,” said King.

The outstanding Howard laid the ball off for Murray, who cracked a first-time angled drive which was held by Edwards in his midriff at his near post before Paxman cut into the box from the left wing and called Edwards into making a flying save to his left to tip the shot around the post.

“I thought Jack Paxman was outstanding tonight. I thought he was probably our best player and I thought he was unlucky not to get a second goal,” said King.

“He’s very versatile for us. He usually plays right-back but he started left-wing, did very well and played left-back for us second half and finished back on the win and he’ll always give you 100% and Jack has got quality as well.”

Parker added: “By this point or spark sort of died off a little bit. Our quality has gone a little bit under, however, nowhere near our levels in the first half.

“We’re still playing a very, good team and we’re committing bodies forward and we’re trying to get another goal.  We accepted if we did that you’re always going to leave chances down our flanks, which we did at that point in the game.  You’re trying to get back into the game.

“We’ve got a top, top goalkeeper in the league so that save may look good but that’s just standard for Nathan.”

Holmesdale were offering very little in attack, with Powell-Downey being kept in Niblett’s pocket and it was no surprise when Deal Town wrapped up the victory with fourteen minutes remaining following their seventh and penultimate corner of the game.

Murray swung the ball in from the left and Munday smashed a downward header past Edwards from inside the six-yard box to maintain his impressive record of being a threat in the air at set-pieces.

“Out of the Deal Town text book. You can see why Billy’s got 15 goals because he's unbelievable in the air,” said King.

“It was a good delivery, we get good runners and it’s hard to defend and we pride ourselves on that we’ve scored a lot of goals from set-pieces all season. The first two were probably not typical Deal Town goals but the second two definitely were.”

Parker added: “Billy Munday was someone we talked about in our pre-match chat. He’s been very good for them this season.  I know that for a fact.

“It’s a great corner, it’s a great area and our young right-back Rolex Buiti has put his hand up and said ‘he was my man’.  Good for him but Rolex has been superb for us this season, playing out of position, he’s a centre-half really but he's playing right-back but he’s been fantastic.  We can kind of stomach that goal to a degree because of his other performances.

“It was a little bit disappointing because I felt we deserved to get at least a draw in the second half, if that makes sense, not overall in the game, just a draw in the second half would’ve been nice but credit to Billy, he’s a good player and he’s put it in the net.”

Roots brought on 44-year-old striker Andy Constable for the final 15 minutes and he latched onto Punselie’s diagonal pass before Constable drilled a low 20-yard pass from the left by-line to Shield, who stroked a left-footed drive from 25-yards which was comfortably saved by Tonkin, who prevented the ball nestling into the bottom far corner.

Deal Town travel to sixth-placed Erith Town on Saturday, before a trip to Ashford to play seventh-placed side Kennington next Tuesday 22 March and both sides are eight points behind.

“We’re in a run of four successive away games, this was the second. We won 1-0 at Welling Town on Saturday and we’ve got two really tough games now,” said King.

“Erith Town on Saturday, they’ve obviously had a brilliant season, chasing us down for fourth place and then we go to Kennington, another side chasing us down for a fourth place.

“We won’t be resting on our laurels, they’re two massive games for us.  We had a massive disappointment being 2-0 up against Sheppey in the Challenge Cup Quarter-Finals last week and losing 4-2 to come back with two wins, we’re delighted with and we’ll see if we can put two more together starting Saturday.

“We want to win as many games as we can. We’ve still got to go to Chatham, Sheppey and Glebe so we’re going to have a big say in the title race.

“We’d love to finish fourth.  We’re in a great position, giving ourselves a six-point buffer over Erith & Belvedere.

“We knew we had this tough run, we’ve still got give away games against teams in the top seven. It’s not a forgone conclusion but as you’ve seen tonight we can compete with anyone.

“We’re going to try to pick up as many points and try to secure that fourth place and if Glebe slip up, I think the gap is only five points and we’ve still got to go there so we still haven’t ruled out coming third.  I don’t like talking about budgets and resources but if we manage to do that, that would be an unbelievable achievement for us.”

Roots and his management team has guided a club with little resources to a respectable mid-table finish in their first season back in Step Five after finishing bottom in their last season at this level back in 2016.

Scott Porter brings his Hollands & Blair side here on Saturday, a side one place higher in the pecking order but both on 39 points with the same number of games played.

Hollands & Blair play Sheppey United in the Kent Senior Trophy Final in Maidstone on Sunday 10 April.

“It’s a side that’s beat us twice, in The FA Cup and once in the league. We’ve played them with two different manager’s and this will be their third different manager.

“We know what to expect from Hollands & Blair. We expect them to be direct. It’s a team around us in the league and we all know that we have to beat teams around you at this point of the season if you want to hold your spot or even nick a place or two so we’re looking to get a positive result on Saturday, that’s for sure.”

Holmesdale: Nathan Edwards, Rolex Buiti, Jamie Rawsthorne, James Shield (William Polius 83), Jacob Skelly, Jordan Eels, Reuel Powell-Downey, Cian McCarthy (Chris Hubbard 63), Owen Punselie, Bailey Dell (Andy Constable 75), Rory Ward.
Subs: John Foster, Clyde Semazzi

Goal: Bailey Dell 5

Booked: Cian McCarthy 28

Deal Town: James Tonkin, Maxwell Niblett, Jack Penny (Alex Smith 46), Macauley Murray, Liam Hark, Sam Gibson, Jack Paxman, Billy Munday, Rene Rivera (John Brayne 76), Ben Chapman, Troy Howard (Lee Scott 85).
Sub: Kieron Hollier

Goals: Jack Paxman 19, Ben Chapman 22, Sam Gibson 29, Billy Munday 76

Attendance: 40
Referee: Mr Matthew Charles
Assistants: Mr Jordan Rant & Mr Ashley Barnes