A quickfire first-half double salvo helped ensure Deal Town Reserves beat Rusthall Reserves in the Kent Intermediate Cup Final at Sheppey's Holm Park on Wednesday night.
Andrew Crush's Hoops, who had already won Kent County League Division 2 Central & East with a perfect record from 18 league matches, finished their 2022/23 campaign in style, scoring both goals inside four minutes.
Charlie Groombridge volleyed home Sammy Carpenter's right-wing cross in the 35th minute before provider turned scorer.
Both sides hit the woodwork late on but Deal held on for a 2-0 triumph.
Reflecting on their league and cup double, manager Crush said: “To get 18 out of 18, that was something that we really aimed for.
“We always banged on about how many goals we conceded when we were at Deal Town Rangers [Deal’s reserves team being reformed last summer with the previous season’s Deal Town Rangers side].
“This season, we’ve really turned that around, conceding eight goals in 18 games and scoring 64. I thought we were just destined to win the league.
“The boys have been winning week-in, week-out, and they haven’t that one blip week. That showed right through to the end.”
There was plenty of rain thundering down in the build-up to the Final, although that had cleared by the time the action got under way.
Deal began brightly as they had two chances inside the first five minutes.
Harry Andrews volleyed over Joe Roberts’ left-wing delivery while a cross from the other flank found Danny Maslak. He wasn’t able to bundle past Rusthall goalkeeper Max Bridges but had been ruled offside anyway.
Kent County League Division 1 Central & East Rusthall slowly started to impose themselves on the showdown, though. Ben Boodle being denied in the eighth minute by Hoops keeper James Tonkin.
Midway through the first period, Deal frontman Maslak was forced to hobble off and was replaced by Jake Hibbert.
Rusthall’s Isaac Barden became the first player in referee Nicholas Bone’s book shortly after the half-hour mark for a late challenge before the Hoops took control.
Midfielder Groombridge sweetly connected to fire beyond Bridges to break the deadlock in front of a crowd of 198.
One quickly became two for the Hoops with 39 minutes played when Carpenter nipped behind the Rusthall defence on the right and kept his cool to double their advantage.
Crush said: “It was a great cross for the first goal and then, for the second one, we’ve been banging on at Sammy about that.
“He gets into that position and always wants to square it. We’ve said all season ‘Smash it across that goalkeeper’.
“It’s taken 18 league games and to get through to the Final here - but what a time for him to do it!”
Aiming to get back into the contest, Rusthall whipped in two dangerous crosses in a row, although nobody could get on the end of them for Lee Chambers’ troops.
Having made a half-time substitution, which saw Dom Howard come on for Savage, Rusthall - beaten by the same scoreline away to Margate under-23s in the Final this time last year - created the first opportunity after the restart.
Danny Kommu tried his luck from around 20 yards, only for his drive to be straight down Tonkin’s throat.
Shortly before the hour mark, there were concerns for them as - seconds after Josh Fermor and Elliot Moon had replaced Barden and Ollie Strickland - Howard went down. But he was able to shake off his knock.
Rusthall skipper Kane Crowhurst unleashed a goal-bound 65th-minute shot, which was bravely blocked by a Deal defender, while Boodle dragged wide seconds later after Fermor’s long free-kick upfield had fallen kindly to him.
With time running out, Deal looked the more likely to score next.
Hibbert blazed over left-footed and Carpenter saw an attempted cross deflect wide off defender Ryan Hinkson before Andrews thought he had sealed the victory, nine minutes from time. His curling strike from the edge of the penalty box flew past Bridges, only to cannon against the Rusthall goalkeeper’s right-hand post and away to safety.
There was seven minutes of stoppage time for Deal to navigate and Tonkin appeared to have been beaten at the other end with two minutes still to play.
But Crowhurst’s effort struck Tonkin’s left-hand post and the Hoops held on for their clean sheet.
On their Final triumph, Crush reflected: “The boys came out of the blocks flying.
“The first 10 minutes, I think it was all us and then we finally put a bit of pressure on.
“We played a lovely bit of football. Our No.8 has made the box, peeled off the centre-half and smashed it into the back of the net.
“From there, the boys just didn’t stop. Everyone gave absolutely everything.
“It was so hard to make substitutions. I was quite lucky in a way that we had a few injuries - otherwise I wouldn’t have been able to make substitutions!
“Everyone did everything I asked of them and more.”
Up front for Deal was Josh Byford who has impressed enough this term to have been given his first-team debut in their last Southern Counties East Premier Division match of the campaign - scoring off the bench.
Crush said: “That’s the aim for us as a reserve side. Winning stuff is great, but pushing on players to play first-team football is exactly what we have set out to do.
“Going into next season, hopefully, some of these boys can get a really good pre-season. Some have already been asked to come in for pre-season with the first-team.
“That’ll be good for them. Even if they end up back with us, they’ve still got a chance to push on and get first-team minutes again.”
Indeed, Deal boss Steve King and some of his first-team players, along with representatives from the club’s women’s team and chair Natalie Benville, had travelled to the island to show their support to the reserves.
“The club is all one club,” said Crush.
“We had our end-of-season presentation night the other week and everyone was there, and everyone was together.
“We’re a whole club. I’m there most Sunday mornings for the women’s games and, if I haven’t got a game, then I’m there with the first-team.
“It’s all one club and we all love being together.”
Deal Town Reserves: James Tonkin, Wesley Maggs, Matthew Chambers, Douglas Sanderson, Owen Mullaney, Joe Roberts, Charlie Groombridge (James Rigby 75mins), Josh Byford, Harry Andrews, Sammy Carpenter (Brooke Ellis 83mins), Danny Maslak (Jake Hibbert 22mins). Subs not used: Jamie Kennedy, Kieron Harris.
Rusthall Reserves: Max Bridges, Ryan Hinkson, Danny Kommu, Ollie Strickland (Josh Fermor 57mins), Michael Gutkowski, Connor Eager, Matt Coleman, Kane Crowhurst, Ben Boodle, Jack Savage (Dom Howard 46mins), Isaac Barden (Elliot Moon 57mins). Subs not used: Michael Tubb, Jack Edmeads.
Referee: Nicholas Bone.