Due to the bad weather on 20th January the original game was postponed so here we were on the last Tuesday in January all ready to go for Sutton Athletic v Deal Town in the SCEFL Challenge Cup Third Round.
With Deal 6th in the Premier Division and Sutton 16th in the First Division the visitors would start as favourites to win and progress to a tie away at Whitstable in the Quarter-Finals.
The game was fairly even for the first 15 minutes or so with the teams having a chance each but once the opening goal came it turned into a dominant performance from the visitors.
That goal came in the 18th minute and started with a long throw from Jack Paxman which was headed on into the danger zone, Ben Chapman shot which was well saved by Matt Bishop but Sam Wilson was on hand to convert his 18th goal of the season.
It looked like the second was to come soon after when Wilson again went through but this time he could not beat the keeper who positioned himself well.
The Deal support was now in full voice as all four of them behind the goal were entertained not just by the game but the fact their own team had whiter shirts than their hosts, which to be fair was a clearly noticeable if not irrelevant point. They had made a long journey so it was good to see them enjoying themselves.
Sutton attempted to play the game in a 4-3-3 formation but with Deal dictating most of the play it was more 4-5-1 throughout evening as the wide players were continually pinned back in a more defensive role.
Most Deal attacks came down the right hand side with Paxman overlapping at will and causing huge problems with his runs, crosses and long throws.
Jack Howlett was too isolated upfront for Sutton, he struggled to get on the ball in the right areas and apart from a header that he put over the bar just before half-time he never got opportunities to trouble the keeper.
The first half ended with still just the one goal having been scored and although Deal had dominated the possession Bishop was not called on too often to save the day.
Half-time gave me the opportunity to continue reading the excellent Matchday programme. There was some great content in there with something for everyone. A big mention for the Veterans match report which was both detailed and humorous so full credit for all involved.
Back to the game and Deal started the second half at an electric pace. After two minutes a great attacking move should have been converted by Connor Coyne when he had time and space in the six yard box to shoot but his effort was well saved by Bishop. He should have scored but as I soon found out, he does not like to score tap-ins. Following a corner the ball fell to Paxman, he ran into the box where he either lost control or was fouled, you can decide, the ball fell to Andy Miller who found Coyne just outside the box. There was a lot still to be done but the former Folkestone striker side-stepped Mike Mills and unleashed a left-footed effort from outside the box which flew past Bishop into the far corner. A great goal from the big man, who alongside Sam Wilson forms a very strong strike pairing.
The third goal came in the 53rd minute and sealed the game. A corner to the far post was headed back across goal by Wilson and with the defender on the post getting drawn to the action and leaving his position the ball went past him and in off the woodwork. 19 for the season for the impressive Deal forward and this match was over as a contest.
With the game now seeming settled we saw multiple substitutions for both sides. For Deal we got to see Euan Sahadow who is on dual registration from Folkestone. The formation changed to a 4-3-3 with Coyne off and Wilson playing through the middle on his own. Sahadow looked good to me, he played on the right side of attack and certainly looks to be a player, especially at this level.
For Sutton Athletic Scott Wason came on upfront. He is a far more physical presence than Howlett and his introduction certainly caused more problems for the Deal defence then they had before. Although they did not have any clear attempts they at least had a go and finished the game strongly.
Another reason for this switch in tempo late in the game was being able to pin Jack Paxman back to defensive duties and limit his attacks. I like the Deal right-back and will be keeping an eye out for his future and development. He receives the M.O.M award for his display tonight!
So the game ended 3-0 to Deal and they deservedly take their place in the next round. They look like a strong settled side who know their jobs and I can see how they are competing at the top end of their division.
Sutton are in a rebuilding phase after a strong season last year saw them lose some key players. They have a lot of youngsters who will only learn from games like this and if they stick together they will no doubt have a more competitive season next time around. They have a nice club with a good bunch of regular supporters, the pitch was superb as well and I wish them all the luck for the rest of the season.
SCEFL Challenge Cup Quarter Final Draw
Chatham Town v Lordswood
Erith Town v Crowborough Athletic
Tunbridge Wells v Cray Valley PM
Whitstable Town v Deal Town