Resurgent Deal have moved into the play-off mix - not that manager Steve King would know!
King’s eighth-placed Hoops are one point outside the top five in the Southern Counties East Premier Division after an impressive 3-1 weekend victory away to leaders Glebe.
Deal are on 23 points from 12 league fixtures this season and have won seven of their last eight league games after a slow start.
But King is more interested in internal points targets he has set with his backroom staff at this stage of the campaign.
“I don’t look at the league table,” he insisted. “I’m not interested until the last 10 games.
“We know our points-per-game target. I don’t know where we are! But I know we’re nearly at two points per game.
“We have three home games in the next four in the league and we’re just working off our internal target.
“Last year, when we played the December round of the Vase, we were ninth or 10th. Then, we ended up third and a few points off top.
“I don’t worry about our league position, I just worry about our points total.”
Victory at Glebe followed last Tuesday’s 2-0 Challenge Cup triumph at Bearsted through goals from Ben Chapman and Billy Munday.
On another successful week, King reflected: “It was really good.
“We knew we had two tough away games - Bearsted and then Glebe. To get two wins with two really good performances, that was really pleasing.
“Sometimes, you scrap it out but I was delighted with our level of performance on Saturday. It was a big win for us.
“With a run of home games to come in the league, we, hopefully, can build on that.”
Frontman Rory Smith was influential at Glebe. He won a first-half penalty, converted by Aaron Millbank, before he bagged a brace himself.
“Rory was outstanding,” King enthused. “He won the penalty in the first half.
“We even had two chances before that - Aaron Millbank and Billy Munday should score.
“His first was a tap-in. Rory does a lot of great work for the team but, for that one, he was in the right place at the right time. His second was a great strike.
“He’s quality. He’s had a few injury problems but, when we have him fit and firing, he’s a key player.”
Having come close to snatching the title last term, few Deal fans should need any belief they can match anyone in the division. But their victory at Glebe should provide it if any doubters remain.
King, whose troops visit Southern Combination Premier Division high-fliers Newhaven in the FA Vase Second Round on Saturday before returning to league action at home to Hollands & Blair on Tuesday, said: “I don’t think we lack belief.
“But I think, wherever you are in the table, you always want to win the games against the teams around you.
“I remember when we were trying to break into the top half five or six years ago and we sort of targeted the games against teams eighth to 15th. No disrespect meant to anyone, but they’re probably games people expect us to win now.
“There’s probably eight or nine teams, vying for four play-off places. If you beat those sides around you, especially away from home, it does give you confidence.
“But Glebe are a good side. If we played them tomorrow, it would probably be a completely different result.”
King made contingency plans to watch this weekend’s Vase opponents live, had their trip to Glebe fallen victim to the weather amid Storm Ciaran.
“I have had a couple of reports on them,” revealed the Deal boss, who intends to take his players for their regular pre-match FA Vase meal tomorrow night.
“Frustratingly, and not frustratingly, I had booked a hotel down there Saturday night. I was half-expecting our game to be off.
“Fair play to Glebe for getting the pitch playable. If we were off, I was planning to go down there. They’re flying in their league.
“They play on a 3G pitch and I don’t need to talk about our 3G record. It’s not unbelievable.
“But we fancy ourselves against Step Five sides and the boys always fancy the Vase.”
While Newhaven are second in the Southern Combination League, Crowborough - who the Hoops beat 1-0 in a pre-season friendly in July - lead the way.
King is unsure if the Southern Combination League is quite as strong as the Southern Counties East, with Crowborough topping the pile.
He stated: “Whether they would be six points clear at the top of our league, I’m not sure. No disrespect to them at all but I don’t think it’s quite as strong as SCEFL.
“But Newhaven are flying in their league.
“We will give it our best. They will have to be a very good side to beat us.”
The victors of the Second-Round FA Vase match pocket £900 in prize money.
Deal have been drawn at home to K Sports or Staplehurst, set to meet on Monday, in the Third Round of the Challenge Cup.