Lingfield 0-2 Deal Town - I'm just relieved that we got the job done and we got through to the last 32 of The FA Vase, says proud Deal Town boss Steve King

Saturday 02nd December 2023
Lingfield 0 – 2 Deal Town
Location The New Defence, Anderson Way, Horley, Surrey RH6 8SP
Kickoff 02/12/2023 15:00

The Isuzu FA Vase Third Round
Saturday 2 December 2023
Stephen McCartney reports from The New Defence

DEAL TOWN manager Steve King says he was feeling relieved that his side avoided being the fifth Southern Counties East Football League side to be dumped out of The FA Vase by Lingfield after his club reached the last 32 for the second successive season.

Daniel Burnett’s side have beaten Tooting Bec (4-0), Whitstable Town (2-1) and Greenways (4-1) – all away from home – before Tunbridge Wells were beaten by Richard Wetton’s first half strike here on 12 November.

This was only the second time that the Surrey club have reached the Third Round, suffering a 9-2 humiliation at Colliers Wood United back in 2014.

Since their shock win over the 2013 Wembley runners-up, Lingfield haven’t tasted victory, losing to Midhurst & Easebourne (2-3), Corinthian-Casuals (5-4 on penalties after the Surrey Senior Cup First Round tie finished 1-1; Little Common (3-4) and they made one change to the side that lost 2-1 at home to Eastbourne United on Tuesday night.

Lingfield have slipped down to fifteenth-place in the Southern Combination League Premier Division table with 17 points (four wins, five draws and seven defeats).

Deal Town – Wembley winners under Tommy Sampson back in 2000 – arrived in Horley having got their FA Vase adventure off to a comfortable 4-1 win in Newhaven and extended their unbeaten run to seven games with a controlled victory in freezing foggy conditions here today.

King’s side went into this Third Round tie sitting in fourth-place in the Southern Counties East Football League Premier Division table, having picked up 32 points (10 wins, two draws and three defeats).

Deal Town opened the scoring in the fifteenth minute – against-the-run-of-play at the time through Rory Smith’s tenth goal of the season.

Lingfield goalkeeper Jack Webb-Olley gave away and then saved Aaron Millbank’s penalty on the stroke of half-time, before the Deal Town striker notched his 15th goal of the season from close range as the freezing fog poor conditions worsened during the second half.

“It was a bit scrappy but I thought we were the better side throughout the game,” said King.

“We kept a clean-sheet, which is important and in these sort of games all you want to do is get through, so I’m delighted to have won the game.

“We weren’t at our best. We didn’t play great but I thought we did enough.

“Look, Lingfield deserve respect.  I think they’ve knocked some good sides out.  They battled hard, they worked hard and they’ve got some threats going forward and it was a massive game for them and I thought we controlled it pretty well.  We didn’t first 10 minutes, we didn’t really start great but after that I was pretty pleased with how we did.

“If we had scored the penalty before half-time it probably would’ve made it more comfortable but (we kept) a clean-sheet and we’re through to the next round.

“I’m proud of the boys. I don’t think we played brilliant but we’re winning games of football at the moment and you can’t go on runs like we’re on and play brilliantly every week, so just delighted to have got through.”

Lingfield – playing with three at the back (or a back five while defending, with their high wing-backs creating a box midfield, started the game on the front foot, just like they did against Steve Ives’ Tunbridge Wells side in the last round.

Central midfielder Jason Stripp swept in a high-quality right-footed free-kick from 30-yards, which sailed over the three-man wall and into the penalty area but Luke Richardson – who plays at the heart of their defence – sent his free header over the crossbar with 225 seconds on the clock.

Lingfield’s right-sided centre-half Albie Garland played the ball out of defence along the deck into Jay Simpson, who healed the ball to Haydn Dickinson, who swept a first-time right-footed drive across the keeper and harmlessly wide of the far post from 25-yards.

Stripp delivered another excellent set-piece towards the penalty spot but centre-half Tom Green headed down and into the arms of visiting goalkeeper Henry Newcombe, who made a comfortable save.

King, who always does his homework on his opposition, said: “I thought we started a bit slow, which is unlike us, we normally start well. 

“We took a little while to get to grips with their shape. We’ve done a lot of work on them and they played a completely different shape to what I was expecting. It was a box midfield, which more than caused us a problem.  We worked on them playing a back five but they played a front two and they played four in there so we didn’t really get to grips with that early.

“I thought their set-piece delivery was good all afternoon. I thought they attacked the ball but they weren’t what I call big chances from set-pieces.  They had headers under pressure from 10 yards but we just didn’t start the game great did we.”

Deal Town were clinical on the counter-attack as they grabbed the lead with 15 minutes and 23 seconds on the clock.

Simpson attempted to roll the ball out to high right-back Toby Allen but high Deal Town left-back Jack Penny pounced and intercepted the ball close to the half-way line.

Penny played a sublime through ball in between Richardson and Garland to play in Millbank, who took a great first touch before he was fouled by advancing goalkeeper Webb-Olley.

Referee Peter Conn went to blow his whistle but waited a split second to see how play was going to unfold and the ball fell kindly to an unmarked Rory Smith, who stroked his first-time left-footed drive into the far corner of an open goal from 15-yards.

“I thought Jack Penny was outstanding all afternoon. I thought he was outstanding at left-back,” said King.

“It would’ve been a penalty but Rory is there and I thought it was a great finish on a difficult pitch.  Pleased to get that goal.”

Webb-Olley recovered from his set-back by re-focussing and he pulled off a fine reaction save to deny the Kent side a second goal exactly four minutes later.

Rory Smith was released down the right channel and his cut back was cleared out to Millbank, who drilled a shot towards goal, which was beaten away by the Lingfield stopper – who pulled off a fine point-blank save to deny Rory Smith later in the second half.

King said: “I thought the keeper made two brilliant saves. That one in the first half and from Rory in the second half and Henry made one as well from them – three great point-blank saves from both goalkeepers.  I thought Aaron did everything right there, it was a very good save.”

Deal Town continued to control the first half, as Lingfield failed to replicate their dominant first half performance against Tunbridge Wells.

Ben Chapman and Billy Munday linked up well inside the Lingfield half before Ben Chapman fed Rory Smith, whose right-footed drive from 25-yards forced Webb-Olley to dive low to his right to parry before gathering at the second attempt.

Penny played a clever low pass into the left-channel which Rory Smith latched onto before cutting inside Richardson before drilling his shot across the face of goal.

Deal’s right-back Ifeoluwa Oni recycled the ball back into the box towards the far post where central midfielder Munday rose to loop his header which was heading wide and Webb-Olley comfortably gathered stepping to his right.

Deal Town centre-half Alex Green was not pressed and had time to fed a high-up Penny, who held the ball up on the left before cutting into the box and his shot deflected off Richardson at the near post and Webb-Olley got down low to his right to hold to prevent the ball nestling inside the bottom near corner in the 29th minute.

“I thought we had more of the chances in the first half, nothing particularly clear-cut but we just really wanted that second half.  We thought we would’ve get it when we won the penalty but not quite,” added King.

Penny cut out a Lingfield attack before hitting a 60-yard diagonal over to Rory Smith on the right and he played Oni in on the overlap and the full-back hung over a cross towards the back post where Munday rose above Lingfield’s right-wing-back Toby Allen to send his bullet header just over the crossbar from inside the six-yard box.

“I thought they defended their box very well, to be fair to them.  Bill’s headers, they weren’t like the clear-cut ones. They were headed with someone challenging him or making it difficult,” said King.

“Look, fair play to them. I think if they perform at the levels they did today, they wouldn’t be where they are in their league.  I know they’ve had a tough run recently, they are a decent side and I can see why they’ve got through to the third round of the Vase.

With the murky conditions deteriorating, some members of the large travelling contingent beside the goal that Deal Town were attacking in the first half switched on their mobile phone torches as it was tough to see the events on the pitch unfold.

Deal Town wasted a glorious chance to kill the game off when referee Peter Conn awarded King’s men a penalty.

An unmarked Munday played a lovely through ball to release Tom Chapman in behind Richardson (Freddie Young’s flag stayed down) and out came Webb-Olley to bring down the Deal Town winger.

Referee Peter Conn gave the Lingfield goalkeeper a yellow card and up stepped Millbank for the penalty (46:32), which he struck right-footed just left of centre and Webb-Olley dived to his right to push around the post.

“Aaron is on absolutely great form at the moment, he’s scored eight goals in a week now,” said King.

“I thought it was a great height for the goalie. I don’t think it was the best penalty in the world, if I’ve got to be honest but look, I love Aaron because a lot of players will be down but he goes out second half and just determined to go and score.  I know the goal was a bit scrappy but he’s in there and puts it in and he makes up for missing that penalty, so fair play to him.”

King wanted more from his side – one that should go a long way in the competition this season, having been away from home in seven of their last eight FA Vase ties since the start of last season.

“I thought we had to up our game a little bit. I thought it was a bit scrappy.  I said ‘try and get a second goal’, so we talked a little bit tactically to make sure we were organised with their shape and we were happy with what we were doing.

“Sometimes you have to win games by grinding them out and today might be one of those days.  I thought it ended up turning out how we expected it to.”

Freezing fog dropped down and visibility got worse after each passing minute but Deal Town put in a very professional performance to get the job done.

They hit Lingfield on a 12th minute counter-attack with Oni hitting a clearance out of his penalty area, the ball was chested down by Rory Smith, who then turned to face goal outside the box to release Tom Chapman, who took a poor first touch which forced him wide before hitting a shot across the keeper and harmlessly wide of the far post from 25-yards.

Deal Town sealed the victory by scoring their second goal with 21 minutes and 42 seconds on the clock with a well-worked move following Penny’s cleared set-piece.

Munday clipped the ball back into the box from the left towards the far post, which was knocked into the goal-mouth by Penny and Millbank got in front of his man to flick the ball over the line into the centre of the goal.

“Look, we got down at Sporting Bengal in the Third Round last year, we were reasonably comfortable but only one goal clear and they equalised in the 96th minute (to make it 2-2) and we had to win on penalties and with this 90 minutes, straight to pens malarkey, there’s always that danger until you get that second goal cushion, so it was a big goal for us,” admitted King.

“That’s 15 goals for Aaron today, 10 for Rory. Ben Chapman and Billy Munday are on nine, Tom Chapman on five.  I think it’s important when you’ve got goals through lots of areas. It’s hard for opposition sides to nullify you. As much as it’s nice to have a 30-40 goal-a-season striker, everyone knows you’ve got a 30-40 goals-a-season striker and sometimes they can end up getting doubled up or if they get injured.

“It’s nice for us that we’ve got goals from lots of areas. It’s nice to see both forwards score again today.”

Millbank cut in from the left and teed up an unmarked Munday, whose right-footed shot from 25-yards was comfortably saved by the Lingfield goalkeeper down on his knees.

However, Lingfield squandered a glorious chance to pull a goal back with 26:04 on the clock.

Left-back Stephen Hodge threw the ball into Simpson (who was now playing up front beside Dennis Asante) and the ball wasn’t cut out by Alex Green and Asante lacked composure as visiting goalkeeper Newcombe spread himself and make a big save.

“I think it went straight under Alex Green’s foot. I think he missed the clearance, which is why (Asante) was in so much space,” said King.

“I thought Greenie was outstanding all afternoon. It was an individual error. A great save.  You need the keeper to make those saves. Their keeper has made two point-blank ones and Henry’s made one. If they go 2-1 with whatever it was left, that was a big save for us.

“We’ve talked about it a lot, we haven’t kept enough clean-sheets.  We’ve been on a great run – we’ve won 15 out of 18 now (since the start of September)– but I think we’ve only kept five clean-sheets this season, so we know we’re not going to keep getting away with it. We keep giving goals away so that was the most pleasing thing today and obviously winning the game.”

Deal Town’s holding midfielder Macauley Murray released Tom Chapman down the right and after twisting and turning Hodge on the corner of the box, his low ball in was comfortably gathered by Webb-Olley.

The always impressive Munday cut the ball onto his right-boot before cracking a drive towards goal from 25-yards, which was tipped over the bar by Webb-Olley inside the final 12 minutes.

By this time of the match you could not see the white football at all (a yellow or a red ball should have been used) and the identity of both sets of players was difficult to make out.

“I saw my side of the pitch but I didn’t see much the other side,” said King.

“I thought the ref was excellent all afternoon. I thought he managed the game. We got through to the end of the game.  The pitch was difficult, like ours at the minute. It’s that time of the year. We’ve had a lot of poor weather.

“The players said on the pitch ‘it was ok.’  When you’re on the sidelines it makes it more difficult (to see what was happening on the pitch).

“I think it didn’t become unsafe. It became difficult. It didn’t become unsafe. We got through to the end of the game quite comfortably and we were happy.

“Lingfield battled really hard, they were physical also. It’s just a case of job done.

“I thought we were pretty organised out of possession.  It’s our first clean sheet for a while, good quality going forward. We had to change the way we wanted to play a little bit but I thought in behind we were a threat.”

A big kick from Newcombe released Tom Chapman, who got in behind the Lingfield defence but his shot flashed past the far post from 18-yards.

Lingfield produced a well-worked move (45:34) when Dickinson (who failed to replicate his dominance of midfield like he did against Tunbridge Wells), fed Simpson in behind and his low cross from the left flashed across the penalty area to unmarked substitute Jimmy Williams, who sliced his shot harmlessly wide of the goal.

King was delighted with his side’s defensive shape.

He said: “I think when you go 2-0 up, the other team are chasing the game so you’re always going to have a chance on the counter.  We didn’t over-commit bodies forward but we had a couple of chances but at that point you can see the determination to defend a 2-0 and keep a clean-sheet, give nothing away and be really difficult to play against.

“I thought we dug in really well, we stuck in really well in that last 10-15 minutes and sort of restricted them to chances outside the box, so I was quite happy with that end of the game.”

Deal Town also reached the last 32 last season, losing to a single goal away to Wiltshire side Corsham Town at the third attempt and Deal have six games before their next FA Vase date on Saturday 13 January 2024.

“I’m relieved because I thought today, through no fault of our own or anything, was a bit of a banana skin for us,” admitted King.

“They’ve had a couple of great (FA Vase) results, have been struggling in the league.  They’ve lost five league games on the bounce and we’ve been on a great run and people have been looking at this today just saying ‘Deal will win it today.’

“You never have a game like that in the third round of The Vase, so it is probably relief tonight. Normally it’s excitement at this stage, you’re delighted because those games are normally 50-50, but I think with what’s happened with their form and with our form, I’m just relieved that we got the job done and we’re through.

“We’ve had five away draws on the bounce in the Vase so we’ve got to be due a couple of home ones if we can get through which would be nice.  I’m hoping our name comes out first on Monday.  Last 32, you just never know do you?  I think when you get to the last 16, you start to get excited but everybody says if you’re in the Vase after Christmas, you just never know.”

Deal Town will be joined in Monday's draw by their league rivals Erith Town and Holmesdale.

Now fifth-placed Deal Town welcome First Division side Staplehurst Monarchs to The Charles Sports Ground to contest a Challenge Cup Third Round tie on Tuesday night.

Staplehurst Monarchs beat bottom-side Sporting Club Thamesmead 2-0 at Bayliss Avenue today and are in fifth-place in the table on 24 points from 12 games.

“It’s another important game. We’re going out to win the game. We’ll asses after today. We won’t be taking them lightly,” insisted King.

“We’re trying to compete on all fronts so we’ll park it (the FA Vase). We’re hoping for a home draw, I think the club deserve one, we’ll probably get somewhere near a thousand people if we get a home draw with our crowds.

“Division One opponents cane always be tricky.  We find we either beat them seven or eight or it’s really tight.  We played Faversham Strike Force in the first round and we won 8-2, very comfortably and last year in the Vase we played Elmstead, struggled and won on penalties.  We lost to Lydd in the Challenge Cup when they were a Div One side last year so we won’t be taking it lightly and we’ll be treating it as if it was a league game and we’ll be trying to win it and trying to win every game.”

Lingfield assistant manager Ben Caldecourt said: “I thought we started quite positively in the first 10-15 minutes. I thought we were in the game, put them under pressure, getting turn-overs, sort of asking questions of them, but as the game went on we just became second best at everything.

“I think we started to lose the individual battles. We weren’t retaining the ball at all well. The standard of the game, the quality wasn’t really there for both sides. I don’t think it was particularly an enjoyable game of football.

“But they were well-organised. They knew exactly what they were doing. They did a bit of homework on us and I just think ultimately we were second best and didn’t do enough to win the game.

“A lot of (our early chances) weren’t really chances. We had a lot of half-chances.  Jason Stripp was putting in some good balls, Luke Richardson had a couple of headers.  Tom Green had a header, which never seemed to trouble the header. Probably sums up our day. I thought we didn’t deserve to win the game.”

Reflecting on Deal’s opening goal, Caldercourt said: “We put ourselves in trouble with that one unfortunately.  Jay Simpson’s under hit a pass to go out wide and we’ve analysed it quite quickly. If we need to be playing it out wide, it needed to be clipped or over-hit. The pitch was quite heavy, so trying to roll the ball out wide wasn’t working.

“As the ball was played, from where we were standing, it looks as though he was offside and Jack Webb-Olley’s had to come out, so I don’t think the goal should’ve stood but the lino didn’t give anything, the ref didn’t give anything.”

Reflecting on the penalty save, Caldercourt added: “It’s one of those where we put ourselves in trouble.  It forced Jack to come out and commit the foul. He done well, a brilliant save because the fella who took the penalty, he hit it hard and low and Jack did well to get down and when he makes that save, you kind of thinking to yourself, right this is our day, get into the dressing room, just one down, we might be alright.

“We were still in the game. Jack saved us. One down. If a chance comes to you, you have to take it because I think we knew today, being realistic amongst each other, we knew we weren’t going to get a lot of chances.

“Deal were hard to break down. They were organised so we knew if we get one chance then we have to take it.  We eventually had two or three better chances and didn’t take them.”

Lingfield pushed Simpson further up field and he played a part in a glorious chances, which Asante failed to take.

“We knew we had to get Jay into the game somehow. It was sort of drifting him by, so we decided to change the shape and we put him up top with Dennis and we started getting a little bit more joy, creating his own space.

“We knew that we would get chances, not a lot of them.  Frustratingly that one fell to Dennis and we just couldn’t take it.

“It was difficult because he probably didn’t expect it. The Deal centre-half looked like he took a swing and it kind of came to Dennis. The keeper done well, he came out and made himself big. It was a snap-shot from Dennis but that was his and only chance today.”

“It’s a frustrating one,” added Caldercourt, when reflecting on Deal’s second goal.

“Toby Allen goes down in our box holding his head. The referee goes to blow the whistle and Toby jumps straight up. Toby’s only 18, it’s his first year playing at this level, probably a more experienced player just stays down in the box holds their head, hurt or not and Deal were in possession of the ball and that sort of killed us.

“The next goal was obviously going to be massive. It looked too easy. It looked too easy.”

Reflecting on Deal’s professional performance, Caldercourt replied: “Deal didn’t give us any time to breath anywhere on the pitch, let alone in their box. They were right on you.”

When asked about the freezing foggy conditions during the second half, the Lingfield assistant manager said: “We did try to ask the linesman.  I couldn’t see the other side of the pitch.  Jack, our goalkeeper tried asking the referee, letting him know he couldn’t see the whole length of the pitch. I could not see the other linesman.  The only thing I could see was his multi-coloured flag.  I could not see him running up and down.”

Lingfield have banked £3,350 in prize money from their five-match FA Vase run, while Deal Town have banked £2,025 after beating Newhaven and Lingfield – incidentally without any of their players being booked.

“The run has been really good. It’s been really good for our confidence because our league form has dipped quite a bit, so having this today, we knew we had something to fight for, so it’s really disappointing to be out but I know the club haven’t gone this far in quite a few years, so it’s good to get here,” said Caldercourt.

“We’ve done well.  I think the Vase run is a success because getting this far hasn’t been done for quite a few years so glad to get here but obviously disappointed with today.

“We’re a very young side. The boys don’t get paid, so they turn up for the love of football and we’re happy to bring on youth.”

Lingfield return to league action on Tuesday night with a trip down to seventh-placed side Eastbourne Town (10 wins, two draws and five defeats), a side nine points adrift of leaders Crowborough Athletic.

“It’s a tricky one, Eastbourne Town on Tuesday. It’s not a great one for us. It’s a bit of a journey on a Tuesday night. They’re well supported but our attention turns back to the league now. We’ve dropped quite considerably, we’re sitting 15th now.

“We haven’t put up a good 90 minutes for quite a while. We’ve been in and out of games consistently. We haven’t been good enough over a long period of time throughout 90 minutes. 

“We know where we are in the league. Football’s a result’s business. We need the points. Anyone can beat anyone in this league.  We just need to get back on the horse.  We started the season relatively well. We were hard to break down. We’ve been killed a little bit with suspensions and injuries, senior players out.

“Once those boys start coming back in and we get the experienced lads back in, I think the results will start coming back in our favour.

“We’d love to be in the play-offs. I’d love to be in the play-offs. It’s not out of our possibility. We can definitely reach it (despite being 16 points adrift of fifth-placed side Steyning Town with 22 league games remaining).

Lingfield: Jack Webb-Olley, Toby Allen, Stephen Hodge, Luke Richardson, Tom Green, Albie Garland (Richard Wetton 73), Jason Stripp (Jimmy Williams 80), Haydn Dickinson, Dennis Asante, Toby Hill (Alec Campbell 67), Jay Simpson.
Subs: Louis Gates, David Heaton, Jamal Robinson-Davids, Rafferty Pearce

Booked: Jack Webb-Olley 45, Toby Hill 66, Albie Garland 69, Stephen Hodge 90

Deal Town: Henry Newcombe, Ifeoluwa Oni (Joe Reeves 57), Jack Penny, Macauley Murray, Alfie Foster, Alex Green, Rory Smith (Alex Smith 89), Billy Munday, Aaron Millbank (Connor Coyne 78), Ben Chapman, Tom Chapman.
Subs: Liam Hark, Kaeden Jefferys, Kane Smith, Kieron Hollier

Goals: Rory Smith 16, Aaron Millbank 67

Attendance: 124
Referee:  Mr Peter Conn
Assistants: Mr Freddie Young & Mr Andrew Stanford