Deal Town FC
Charles Sports Ground
St Leonards Road
Ground Number: 901
Saturday 11th January 2020
Deal Town 1-1 Binfield
FA Vase 4th Round
DEAL TOWN FC - A BRIEF HISTORY
The club was formed in 1908 as Deal Cinque Ports, changing their name to Deal Town in 1921. Their formative years were spent in the Thanet League, East Kent League and the Kent Amateur League. After the Second World War, they joined the Kent League, of which they were champions in 1954. The league folded in 1959 and so Deal joined the Aetolian League. They were runners-up in their first season but left for three unsuccessful seasons in the Southern League between 1963 and 1966. The Greater London League was next for an unremarkable couple of years. In 1968, Deal joined the Kent League and remain there to this day, albeit with it being renamed the Southern Counties East League in 2013. The league has been a two-tier structure for the majority of this time, but Deal have been continuous members of the top division since 1978. The highest finish came at the turn of the millennium when they were champions, the lowest when they finished bottom in 1986 but avoided relegation during a lean spell for the club.
Deal Town's best run in the FA Cup has been to the 3rd Qualifying Round. It's a stage they have reached four times, the last of which came in 1997 as they lost 2-1 at Margate. An unremarkable half a decade was spent in the FA Trophy in the first half of the 1970s but they've fared a lot better in the FA Vase. They lifted the trophy in 2000 as part of a league and cup treble, beating Chippenham Town 1-0 at Wembley Stadium. Local cup wins include the Kent League Cup (1982 and 1999), the Greater London League Cup (1968) and the Kent Senior Trophy (1995 and 2000). Famous former players include Southampton starlet Danny Wallace who made a single substitute appearance for Wycombe. His dramatic loss of form upon joining Manchester United was down to him suffering multiple sclerosis, an illness he eventually received treatment for. The club's record attendance was for a 1979 game against a Billy Wright Showbiz XI. The town of Deal has a population of 30,000 and is 25 miles from France. It was a rumoured first location that Julius Caesar visited in Britain but was not favourably looked upon in olden days with Samuel Pepys calling it 'Pitiful' in 1660 and William Cobbett labelling it 'Villanous' in 1823. These days it looks a pleasant seaside town with a number of decent pubs, so things have obviously improved greatly.
Originally on this day, I was planning on going into London and making a sixth attempt at visiting Peckham Town after all my previous attempts were postponed. There would, as always be plenty to do in London but on Friday afternoon, I had a change of plan. I heard about Binfield running a coach down to Deal Town the previous day, but it was sold out. However, two people cancelled to go on the train and I was straight in there, booking a bargain seat for a tenner. There was a slight downside that I'd have to drive 25 miles to a hotel in Bracknell but considering driving or getting the train would cost over £40, it was a small price to pay. There was a whole load of pubs that I fancied visiting in Deal, over two areas but time constraints meant that I'd have to choose carefully. Extensive research revealed that The Berry was the one to aim for, 16 real ciders on offer which would suit me down to the ground. I was really pleased to be visiting a ground I'd wanted to visit for ages and I also had a productive afternoon on Friday. I'd originally intended to visit Spurs in the Middlesbrough end, but tickets sold out quickly. I was alerted by my Braintree pal Dan Turner that the tickets in the Spurs end had gone on general sale. I'd originally intended to visit with Arsenal fan Anwar, but he didn't want to 'sit with them w*nkers' and Dan was not willing to pay the transaction fees for a revisit. I wasn't that bothered, I'm as happy going solo as I am in a group and £23.75 was a good price to pay to tick a great ground and recomplete the 92.
The previous night had seen me have a couple of pints - my new year’s resolution to try and drink less had been kept, although I was originally planning on having a sober night. I was also trying to cut down on Irn-Bru - bad for my teeth my dentist rightly said, but having drunk most of the bottle I bought for today’s game, I didn’t have the best night’s sleep, waking at my normal work time as usual. My Non-League directory of 1993 said that Deal used to have an all covered ground and a 500 seater stand, though further research (someone responding on Twitter) proved this to be grossly exaggerated, the original 100 seater wooden stand had sadly been replaced by a bog-standard Arena though which was disappointing but inevitable I guess. After having some breakfast and getting ready, I left at 8.45. This would be the sixth team I'd travelled with after enjoying my journeys with Oxford City, Kings Langley, Windsor, Kidlington, Didcot Town and Chesham United. Arriving at the Coppid Beech Hotel at 9.30, I was glad to see the coach arrive soon after. I paid my £10 and even got a proper coach ticket. I got a picture of the coach with the hotel making a nice backdrop before getting on the coach. We made great progress and although we stopped at a services near Maidstone, there was still set to be a good amount of time for pre-match. We got there just after 1 and I headed to the Berry, 20 minutes away. I had a new pint, Tiny Rebel Protanopia and a retry a retry of Kentish Pip Civil Disobedience which were both nice. It was a 15-minute walk to the ground with me getting there at 2.20. £7 entry and a £1.50 programme later I walked around the ground. I headed to the tea bar where there was a 20-minute wait for chips as the small outlet was overrun. Eventually, I was served and took my place for the game.
Deal Town were sitting in a fairly decent 8th place in the SCEFL Premier prior to today's game. They'd lost 2-0 to high flyers Corinthian in their last game and had won three and lost three of their last six. Binfield were sitting third in the Hellenic Premier, some way behind runaway leaders Westfields but looking capable of a runners-up spot. They'd won their last five league games, their last league defeat at home to Fairford on the 16th November. As for FA Vase progress, Deal couldn't do better on their 20th anniversary of winning the competition. Binfield would at least match their best progress today but would be hoping for a better result than at this stage in 2012 when they lost 7-1 at Tividale. It was Binfield that were much the brighter side in a half of few chances. They dominated having a few free kicks within range but failed to trouble the goalkeeper. Binfield went down to ten men on 50 minutes, Tom Melladew sent off for a second booking. Deal came out the second half the better side and they took the lead on 70 minutes. A player was tripped in the area and Macaulay Murray stepped up and converted the penalty. Binfield fought desperately to get back into the game and they got their reward on 84 minutes. A long throw caused confusion in the area and Josh Helmore’s superb shot on the turn flew into the top right-hand corner. It was a fair result on the balance of play, but extra time was played to see if the sides could be separated. Both sides had periods of pressure, Binfield edging it perhaps but no further goals were scored. I was pleased to film both goals, more by luck than judgement. The match will go to a replay next Saturday at Binfield, sadly I’ll be unable to attend as I’ll hopefully watching Wycombe put things right against Rochdale.
My beloved team had been tonked 4-0 up at Sunderland to continue a poor run of form. We were never expected to be top of the league but after being seven points clear at before Christmas, we are now second on goal difference. There was plenty of hyperbole from our fans, calling out a crisis but we have performed a miracle to get anywhere near where we are. The game ended and I made my way to the Co-Op to get a bottle of Irn-Bru. I’d have preferred the diet version to the full sugar one, but beggars can’t be choosers. I was thinking of getting a Chinese but what with having had two portions of chips earlier at the ground, I decided against it. I was back at the coach before 6 but had to wait until 6.40 for the coach to leave. It was another ten minutes before we got fully going though, the Deal chairman’s van was blocking the way, but it was soon moved. The players were in jubilant mood and cans were handed around. The team enjoyed a good sing on the way home which made the journey go quicker. There was a stop at the same services so that the players could get some McDonalds and although I was keen to get on the road, they deserved it. We finally got back to the hotel at 10 with me nipping across the road to the Budgens for some cans. Originally, the plan had been to go to Lidl but it was too late for that. I had to make do with some Strongbow and some chicken before driving home. I was in time for the first goal on Match Of The Day and had a couple of cans while catching up. A late night wasn’t ideal with me up at 4 am for work, and I was knackered the next morning.
THE CHARLES SPORTS GROUND is a decent venue despite the use of ‘Arena’ type stands. This includes the main seated area, a 100 capacity unit that sits on the halfway line. There are further units behind each goal, holding around 50 each. At least they’ve made the effort to make them look different by adding fascias. Furthermore, there’s a clubhouse overhang, holding around 150 with the rest of the ground being open. There was a basic club shop at the ground too - merchandise available in the club room.
Food and drink wise, the tea bar is decent offering burgers, sausages and chips at reasonable prices along with drinks. The clubhouse is a bit basic. Fosters, Amstel and Dark Fruits are on tap along with a selection of bottles. Exploration wise, you have two choices - Deal or Walmer, both around the same distance away. I opted for the latter which is smaller but it did have an excellent pub, The Berry. Takeaways were further down on the seafront but I didn’t have time to explore. Overall, a good and friendly place to visit and well worth the journey.