Lincoln United 1-1 Deal Town - We'll look back and think that was a big opportunity missed, admits gutted and proud Deal Town boss Steve King

Saturday 09th March 2024
Lincoln United 1 – 1 Deal Town
Location Ashby Avenue, Lincoln, Lincolnshire LN6 0DY
Kickoff 09/03/2024 15:00

(Lincoln United win 4-3 on penalties)
The Isuzu FA Vase Quarter-Final
Saturday 9 March 2024
Stephen McCartney reports from Ashby Avenue

DEAL TOWN manager Steve King says his side have missed a great opportunity to reach The FA Vase Semi-Finals for the first time in 24’ years as Lincoln United held their nerve to win their fourth penalty shoot-out to reach the two-legged Semi-Finals for the very first time.

Impressive wide attacker Jack McMenemy scored his 23rd goal of the season to put Chris Funnell’s side in the driving seat, before Ben Chapman headed in his 13th goal of the season to restore parity just before the break.

Winger Aaron Millbank and goalkeeper James Tonkin failed to score from the spot as Deal Town suffered their first ever FA Vase exit by a heartbreaking penalty shoot-out.

Lincoln United progressed by winning 4-3 after 10 penalties to join Great Wakering Rovers, Romford and Worcester City just two games of football from reaching the Wembley Stadium Final on Saturday 11 May.

“The support has been magnificent.  Obviously pleased to have got to this stage, obviously disappointed with the outcome,” said King during the post-match press conference.

“I think we should’ve won the game in 90 minutes.  I thought we was the better side but we weren’t clinical enough in the first half when we was on top.

“Second half we got stretched and obviously once you go to penalties, you’re in the lap of the gods really.

“I thought it was an end-to-end- game. It was an open game, two good sides and the boys’ put in a massive effort.  I think for us we just have to kill the game off in the first half when we were dominant. 

“I think if you get in front at any point in the game, we haven’t got to work quite as hard, you can sit in, you can defend but we never got our noses in front.

“We’ve got a lot to play for still.  This is like the dream competition isn’t it, the Vase but our bread and butter, we go again on Tuesday.  This football club hasn’t played (in the Southern League First Division) since the 1960s (1963-66).  We’ve got a lot to do between now and the end of the season to reach our goal.

“We’re all disappointed but we’re in a situation where we’ll just pull ourselves together and we’ll crack on.  There’s no point us getting too down about it. It happens. It’s frustrating.”

Lincoln United were playing at this stage of the competition for the first time since losing 1-0 at home to Friar Lane Old Boys in 1975, while this was Deal Town’s first tie at this stage since 2000, when Tommy Sampson’s side went all the way to beating Chippenham Town, thanks to THAT late Roly Graham strike underneath the iconic Twin Towers of Wembley Stadium.

Funnell’s side went into this tie sitting in second-place in the United Counties League Premier Division North table, having picked up 64 points (21 wins, 1 draw and 6 defeats) from their 28 games.  They are 10 points adrift of leaders Sherwood Colliery but with a couple of games in hand.

Funnell made four changes to his side that were held to a 2-2 home draw by Eastwood CFC on Tuesday night.

Lincoln United defeated Newark Town (7-6 on penalties after a 1-1 draw), Bugbrooke St Michaels (4-1), Heanor Town (6-0), Congleton Town (2-1), South Liverpool (5-3 on penalties after a 1-1 draw) and came home from Sheffield with a 6-5 penalty shoot-out win over Hallam after a 2-2 draw in the Last Sixteen.

Deal Town arrived at Ashby Avenue sitting in third-place in the Southern Counties East Football League Premier Division table, having picked up 61 points (19 wins, four draws and three defeats) from their 26 games.

King’s men have reached this stage of the competition by beating Newhaven (4-1), Lingfield (2-0), Cobham (2-0) and came away from Somerset with a 6-5 penalty shoot-out win over Bridgwater United, who fought back from 2-0 down, as Deal Town played with 10 men after Macauley Murray was sent-off in the 59th minute.

King made three changes to his side that beat Ashford-based side Kennington 3-0 on Tuesday night, but confirmed that Tom Chapman (cramp) and Ben Chapman (fatigue) were forced off during today’s game.

Lincoln United started the game on the front foot – watched by a crowd of 922 fans, at least 300 of which had made the 442 mile round trip from the Kent coast and gave their side plenty of vocal support throughout the contest.

The home side created their first opening inside the opening nine minutes when centre-half Sean Wright floated a free-kick from the halfway line towards the edge of the Deal Town penalty area for central midfielder Elliott Dye to flick his deflected header past the left-upright for the first of five Lincoln United corners.

Deal Town’s game-plan was for the impressive right-winger Tom Chapman to be released and cutting inside Lincoln United’s left-back Kallum Smith, who shut the door firmly shut during the second half before Tom Chapman’s forced withdrawal with 15 minutes of normal time remaining.

“I had to bring Ben Chapman off. I had to bring Tom Chapman off just for over-playing injuries but they’re huge players for us,” explained King.

“But we’re trying to get promoted, so we respected the League on Saturday and Tuesday and we picked strong teams.

“If we had left all of those boys out, we probably would have got through today, but that’s football. 

“We’re trying to get promoted as well.  I made that decision, I’ll carry the can. It was frustrating when they had to come off but we’ll learn, we’ll find out at the end of the season if it was the right decision, won’t we.”

Millbank released Tom Chapman, who easily ghosted past Kallum Smith, before cutting into the penalty area, before a couple of dinks saw the ball cut back to Billy Munday, who lashed his first time right-footed drive over the top of the near-post from 12-yards.

“I thought we had a lot of very similar type of chances in the first half.  We didn’t put them away.  I thought our moves were good,” said King.

“You could clearly see how we were trying to get in.  You could clearly see the game plan. I thought that we executed what we wanted to do but the hardest thing in football is the last bit – putting the ball in the back of the net and today we just didn’t quite do that.”

Lincoln United grabbed the lead with 14 minutes and 6 seconds on the clock, courtesy of good link-up play from attackers Jake Park and McMenemy, after a big kick upfield from their goalkeeper Jack Steggles.

McMenemy headed the ball off to Park, who hit a right-footed volley towards goal from 22-yards, which was too hot for Tonkin to handle, the ball bouncing off his chest before falling kindly for McMenemy to smack a first-time right-footed hooked shot into the top far corner from 12-yards.

“A good finish.  We just didn’t deal with that first ball. The first ball came a long way, the keeper obviously had good distribution. We didn’t deal with the first contact and you’re scrambling a bit and it was a good finish from their lad,” said King.

After assistant referee Arran Williams raised his flag to catch Ben Chapman offside after stabbing the ball over the line after Ashley Miller put the ball into the box, Tom Chapman whipped a teasing cross towards the far post from 35-yards, which was smothered by Steggles, low to his right, although the ball was heading behind for a goal-kick.

“We had one disallowed for offside, which was very close. It looked very, very close,” added King.

Deal Town centre-half Alfie Foster delivered a hanging cross into the Lincoln United penalty area, the ball was headed away by right-back Mitchell Griffiths and this release winger Tobias Liversidge down the right.

His dinked through ball put Park through on goal but Tonkin bravely smothered the ball at the striker’s feet, taking a bang to the head in the process and requiring treatment.

Deal Town continued to dominate around the half-hour mark with Liversidge cutting in from the right to the centre before losing the ball to Deal Town’s left-wing-back Jack Penny, who showed desire to win the ball, before releasing Tom Chapman, who twisted and turned Kallum Smith before dragging his left-footed shot past the foot of the near-post from 12-yards.

“I thought Tom was going to score first half.  We had the one that hit the side netting.  I thought that was probably the best chance, but he was a threat. I thought he was excellent,” said King.

“It was a blow when he cramped up because he worked ridiculously hard.  It’s difficult because I thought we played very well.  I thought we was the better side.”

Millbank then fed Tom Chapman, who this time easily flew past Lincoln United centre-half Sean Wright before setting up Ben Chapman who stretched and lashed his right-footed shot over the top of the near post from the edge of the six-yard box.

Deal Town kept knocking on the door and Murray – who slotted in to the back three or just in front of it – clipped a diagonal ball to release Tom Chapman down the right and the winger cut into the middle before stroking a left-footed shot from 20-yards, which was comfortably gathered by Steggles.

Lincoln United offered very little in attack and another big kick from Steggles landed at Park’s feet inside the Deal Town box but a poor touch allowed the ball to run through to the untroubled Tonkin.

Deal Town deservedly levelled with 41 minutes and 52 seconds on the clock, and this time it was Miller who turned provider in the position that was dominated by Tom Chapman during the first-half.

Foster hit a long ball out of defence and Miller expertly brought the ball down on the right-hand side of the penalty area before hanging over a cross towards the far post for Ben Chapman to nip in front of goalkeeper Steggles to score with a downward header from six-yards into the centre of the goal.

“A good goal. I thought we deserved it.  I thought it was important for us to score before half-time.  We knew that channel, deep crosses to the back post was what we was looking at, so that came from our planning,” added King.

A poorly-executed downward throw from Penny down the left bounced to Miller, who lashed his 25-yarder high over the Lincoln United crossbar, which turned to be the last touch of a first half that Deal Town dominated.

“Keep going, keep moving the ball, keep trying to create and keep trying to get it down that right-hand side,” said King.

“I didn’t feel we played quite as well second half as we did first half.  We had a few little tired legs.  We got a little bit tired but when we changed it, we were a threat.  I was pleased with the performance. I was pleased with the game plan.  You do think at half-time we did miss our chance being so dominant but just keep going and we’ll win the game but we didn’t, we couldn’t score.  You then go to the lottery of penalties.   Maybe just a game too far.”

Deal Town produced a well-worked move inside the opening nine minutes but Steggles wasn’t tested.

Munday clipped a long ball up to Miller, who played the ball out to Tom Chapman on the right and he hung over a deep cross towards the back post for Millbank to knock his header down before Miller headed the ball to Miller, who looked up into the heavens after Tom Chapman lashed his first-time right-footed drive high over the crossbar from a central position from 22-yards out.

Sloppy defending from Lincoln United’s Wright allowed Miller to flick his header past him in midfield – after Millbank dropped very deep before hitting the left-channel – and Miller cut in from the left into the centre before unleashing a right-footed rasping drive from 22-yards, which was plucked out of the air by Steggles with both of his hands raised above his head to prevent the shot crashing into the roof of the net in the 56th minute.

“I thought Ash Miller was the best player on the pitch today. I thought he was outstanding,” said King.

“I thought he caused them problems in little pockets all the time. He set the goal up. It would’ve been nice for that to fly in the top corner but it has ended up straight at the keeper and it was quite comfortable for him.”

Lincoln United lacked composure when Liversidge floated in a deep cross from the right towards the corner of the penalty area on the left but Kallum Smith (who defended much better after the interval) curled his left-footed attempt over the top of the far post from 18-yards.

Tom Chapman burst to life at the halfway mark and Griffiths allowed him to reach the by-line down the left before cutting the ball back to an unmarked Foster, who floated in a cross towards the near post for substitute striker Wes Hennessey to flick his header over the crossbar from 10-yards.

“I thought Wes did well when he came on. I thought Jamie Kennedy did well when he came on. That was our aim to try to go twice and try to have two goes at them.  It got a bit stretched,” said King.

“They left two big boys up top (Park and McMenemy) and they’re very direct back-to-front and they countered well.  I thought we just lacked that little bit of quality, a little bit of our decision making second half, we got a little bit tired.

“We took Ben Chapman and Tom Chapman off.  Ben went off with fatigue.  He’s played a lot of football. He got a slight tweak. We’ve got 14 games to play, so we didn’t want to get to a point where we run someone so far into the ground, he misses the next 10 games.  A bit frustrating but hopefully he’ll be alright in the week.”

Lincoln United started to show signs of recovery going into the final 20 minutes but they found Deal Town’s defence in their usual resilient mood.

The home side’s best chance arrived with 31: 23 on the clock when Foster opened the gate but Park failed to capitalise.

Liversidge played a 20-yard diagonal pass to play Park in behind Foster close to the corner of the penalty area on the left but striker Park lacked composure and lashed his right-footed shot high over the crossbar from 20-yards.

King said: “I thought their front two (Park and McMenemy) were good, both target men.  We had a hunch that he’ll probably be playing both of them today. We prepared for that. I thought they were a threat.  I actually thought we dealt with them quite well.  When you play two big guys up front and you’re direct there’s always a chance you’d get in at some point.”

With both Chapman’s now off the pitch, substitute Ifeoluwa Oni played the ball inside to Munday, who fed Hennessey, who cut inside and swept his shot towards goal, which forced Steggles to get down low to his left to scoop the ball towards safety.

Lincoln United showed great character to prevent Deal Town getting the win that their play deserved on the day and they almost snatched the victory with 42:40 on the clock.

Liversidge fed McMenemy, who hooked his right-footed chip over Tonkin’s head from 15-yards, the ball bouncing off the top of the crossbar and dropping behind for a goal-kick as the impressive number 11 aimed for the top far corner.

King said: “Pleased it didn’t go in.  At that point in the game, we’re getting a little bit desperate. You’re trying to get a goal.  I thought he (McMenemy) was a threat. He’s a decent player.  It might be our day but you never know.

“I’m pretty philosophical. I’m very disappointed but I’m a football coach. I look at the football. I thought we played quite well.”

Lincoln United goalkeeper Steggles left the field of play and went in the home dressing room before the penalty shoot-out started – but Munday, Penny, Millbank and Tonkin all took different penalties to the ones that they took at Bridgwater United in the last round.

Lincoln United went first and Liversidge’s right-footed penalty just left of centre was saved by Tonkin, diving low to his right.

Miller’s right-footed penalty towards the bottom left-hand corner was kept out by Steggles, using a strong right-hand to make the save, diving low to his right.

McMenemy sent Tonkin the wrong way with a right-footed penalty that nestled inside the bottom right-hand corner to cap off a good day’s work.

Munday’s right-footed penalty just left of centre was almost kept out by Steggles, who guessed the right way and was close to keeping it out.

Kallum Smith produced a quality dinked finish, straight down the middle and into the roof of the net, as Tonkin dived to his right.

Penny sent Steggles the wrong way with a clinical left-footed penalty into the bottom right-hand corner to make the score 2-2 after six spot kicks.

Lincoln United captain Dye lead by example and sent Tonkin the wrong way with his right-footed spot-kick which nestled into the bottom left-hand corner.

Deal Town skipper Millbank emphatically rifled his right-footed penalty into the top right-hand corner after a long run up to make it 3-3.

Billy Brooks – who came on 34 seconds into stoppage time – referee Gareth Thomas played four minutes and 3 seconds of stoppage time – drilled his right-footed penalty into the roof of the net – straight down the middle – after a long run up.

Deal Town keeper Tonkin – who saved two penalties at Bridgwater and scored one – sent his right-footed effort high over the crossbar as Deal Town’s Wembley hopes ended in heartbreaking fashion.

“I’m emotionless during penalty-shoot-outs because when we were dead and buried at Bridgwater in the last round, we missed our first one and they had one to win it and stuff like that.

“I just think what’s going to be, will be.  We’ve done our work. We looked where their penalty takers were going. We knew they’re good at penalties. That’s the fourth round they’ve got through on penalties.

“Their goalkeeper is a big boy and he makes that goal look quite small but it’s in the lap of the gods.   We won the last one and it didn’t happen today. It’s just out of your hands, it’s either going to go for you, or it’s not going to go for you.

“Tonks has never missed a penalty for us before. He’s normally in the five (penalty takers). It happens, doesn’t it.”

When asked how both Miller and Tonkin were feeling post-match, King revealed: “They’ll be fine.  They’ll be fine. Everyone’s gutted because I think we know once we go to a penalty shoot-out, I thought Ash Milelr was the best player on the pitch. He’ll be disappointed to miss a penalty but Tonks has never missed one before. It happens.

“I think by that point people are gutted but it’s a team game. We win as a team, we lose as a team.  They’ll be ok.”

King believes FA Vase ties should go to Extra Time first and not straight to penalties.

“I will say at this point and I know it’s a moan of quite a few people but I don’t understand how the Vase hasn’t at least gone back to extra-time.  So many of these big games have been decided by penalty shoot-outs.  I just think you’re almost devaluing the competition a little bit. Another half-an-hour there they might to and win it, they hit the bar late on.

“I remember Vase games used to do replay, then extra-time and then penalties.  This is a little bit frustrating but you look at it every year and these games are tight games because you’re matching really good teams together.

“In probably a months’ time, when you look back, we’ll be gutted. But probably at the end of the season we’ll look back and think ‘that was a big opportunity missed’ but right now we’ve just got to get prepped for Tuesday, see who’s fit and we’ve got 14 league games left to try and pick up the points to try to pick up points we need to try to secure promotion.”

King’s attention now turns to welcoming Nicky Southall’s Lordswood to the Charles Sports Ground on Tuesday night.  Lordswood are in 11th place in the table with 46 points (12 wins, 10 draws and seven defeats) and went down to a 3-2 defeat at Tunbridge Wells today.

Glebe beat Bearsted 2-0 at Foxbury Avenue, while Corinthian were held to a goal-less draw at home to Snodland Town.

Glebe are still top of the pile with 69 points from 33 games, while the four play-off places contain Corinthian (66 points from 31 games), Deal Town (61 points from 26 games), Faversham Town (60 points from 31 games) and Erith Town (56 points from 29 games).

Bearsted (53 points from 30 games), Snodland Town (51 points from 29 games) and Whitstable Town (51 points from 31 games) make up the top eight and all failed to win.

“We’ve just got to try to win games of football but like I’ve said all along, we’ve got a points target.  We’ve got 14 games to try to hit it,” said King.

“Nine of those are at home, five away and that’s what we’ve got to try and do. If we can do that, it will be an incredibly successful season if we get promoted and got to the Quarter-Finals of The FA Vase, especially our budget and our resources.  We’re not spending like some other clubs are, so we’ll keep going.

“Fatigue is going to be an issue for us, obviously ironically losing today will probably make it slightly easier because we haven’t got to put a two-legged semi-final in and al the prep and all of the energy that goes into that. I’d love to be stood here saying we’re looking forward to it, but we’ve got to try to take a silver lining.  We know how to bounce back and we’ll look to do that.”

King had this message to the travelling fans that made this feel like a home game.

“Amazing support.  Thank you! We really appreciate it. It really helped us out. Sorry that we didn’t get through for you and we’re going to need your support for the rest of the season.

We’ve played a team that are flying in their league. I thought we was the better side comfortably, away from home, so we’ve got to crack back to SCEFL and we’ve got to try to be the better side in most games and keep trying to pick up points and ultimately with our resources and what we are as a club, if we manage to get promoted this year, that will be an absolute unbelievable achievement.

“Hopefully, we don’t have to play in (the FA Vase) next year because we’d have got promoted but if it doesn’t happen then we’ll look forward to having another go next year.

“I’m disappointed but I front up this group of players and I’m proud of them. I’ve got no criticism of them.  I understand football’s about fine margins.

“They’re a really nice club, really nice people. The manager is a nice guy. I won’t discredit their achievement because they’ve got through and they’ve beaten us.

“Over the course of 90 minutes, I thought we were the better side but as I said to the boys in the changing room, the better side doesn’t always win and we’ve got to make sure if we are the best side in SCEFL, then everybody’s played 40 games that we’re not a hard luck story and that we’re at the top of the table and there’s not other teams going ‘ Deal were probably the best side.’

“We have to make sure that over 40 games we have enough points.  Today it’s not quite happened but that’s football isn’t it.

“You need luck and it was probably with us a little bit at Bridgwater and today it wasn’t but they’ve won four penalty shoot-outs so maybe it’s their year. Fair play to them as a football club.

“We’ve got big fish to fry. We’ve got Glebe at home two weeks’ today and we’ve got three important games before then so it’s not the end of our season. We’re not in there crying, we’re not England going out of the World Cup and you have to wait four years to try to do it again.

“In three days’ time we’re going to be back at home against a resurgent Lordswood side, who have been very good recently and we’re going to have to try to pick up three points and generally right now that’s all I’m thinking about.”

Lincoln United: Jack Steggles, Mitchell Griffiths, Kallum Smith, Paul Grimes, Sean Wright, Michael Jacklin, Jack McMenemy, Elliott Dye, Jake Park (Billy Brooks 90), Ted Gibbons (Callum Chapman 82), Tobias Liversidge.
Subs: Pierce Hudson, Evan Payne, Jamie Ture, Josh Wilson

Goal: Jack McMenemy 15

Booked: Paul Grimes 43

Deal Town: James Tonkin, Joe Reeves, Jack Penny, Macauley Murray (Jamie Kennedy 86), Alfie Foster, Alex Green, Ashley Miller, Ben Chapman (Wes Hennessey 63), Aaron Millbank, Billy Munday, Tom Chapman (Ifeoluwa Oni 75).
Subs: Liam Hark, Josh Byford, Kane Smith, Kieron Hollier

Goal: Ben Chapman 42

Booked: Jack Penny 69, Aaron Millbank 90

Attendance: 922
Referee:  Mr Gareth Thomas
Assistants: Mr Reece Davis & Mr Arran Williams
Fourth Official: Mr Thomas Hales