Boss Steve King has managed to find out plenty about Deal’s weekend hosts for their massive FA Vase tie - thanks to a little help from some friends.
King’s title-chasing Southern Counties East Premier Division Hoops will set off on Friday afternoon for Saturday’s last-16 tie at high-flying Western League Premier Division Bridgwater United, who knocked out much-fancied Farnham in the previous round.
“I’m very lucky that I’ve got some very close friends in that area of the world who are involved in football in the south-west,” the Deal manager revealed. “So, I’ve been able to gander some very useful information.
“We will certainly be very well-prepared come Saturday.
“I would have trekked down there myself to watch them. But I’ve got some very trusted sources who are able to support me. That works.
“If we had got drawn anywhere else in the country, I probably wouldn’t have got that luxury. We’ll be prepared, we have done our homework and we know what we are facing.
“They’re an incredibly strong side. I think we go in as underdogs.
“But I think they probably would have looked at us, looked at our run of form and our league table and will know it’s not going to be a walkover for them, either.”
King admitted excitement is now building ahead of the tie when £2,250 in prize money will also be at stake.
With red-hot Deal also challenging for a league title and the Challenge Cup, King’s been impressed with how his troops have maintained their focus.
With around 150 away fans set to make the long journey, he said: “I’m really excited for it now.
“As a group, I’ve been really proud of the boys because we haven’t mentioned it until 5pm on Saturday. There was no talk about it before the game on Saturday.
“It got drawn, we parked it and we left it. Now, we have got a whole week to prepare.
“The league has been good enough to give us this midweek off to prepare and we’re all excited for it. We sorted out the hotel and rooming on Sunday.
“It’s a massive opportunity in a massive competition. We’re probably under a fair bit of pressure for the rest of the season, it’ll be fair to say, but I don’t feel we are under a lot of pressure on Saturday.
“We’re under pressure to perform in front of what will be a massive travelling support. But it’s the last 16 of the Vase and we’re playing away against the team who won away from home against the favourites - who had won every game in their league – at their ground!
“We’ll prepare and give it our best shot. But we’re also going to enjoy it.”
King has been with the 2000 FA Vase victors for nearly a decade now.
Asked if this was the biggest game since he joined the Charles Sports Ground club, he replied: “From an outside-of-the club point of view, yes it is. Internally, we have got bigger games to come in the league.
“But we got to the last 16 of the Vase before and went to Newcastle and played against Consett, and got outclassed (losing 2-0). That was a different situation.
“We were a mid-table SCEFL side at that point and, at that point, we were playing a team flying high in a very strong league. We enjoyed the experience but we were second-best.
“Now, we’re probably one of the form Step Five sides in the whole country over the last 12 months or so.
“So I think it’s got a different feel this time.”
Deal head into the match after a 3-0 home league win against Tunbridge Wells last Saturday. Billy Munday bagged a brace and midfielder Macauley Murray converted a penalty.
“I was delighted,” King reflected. “I probably enjoyed Saturday’s game as much as any this season.
“We were professional and I thought we were really comfortable in what I felt could be a difficult game. Tunbridge Wells drew with Faversham a couple of weeks ago, they have beaten Glebe, they have beaten Whitstable and they have beaten Snodland.
“Although their league position isn’t fantastic, they are the sort of side that I knew could upset the apple cart a little bit. We marked it down as a bit of a danger game.
“I think we gave away one chance right at the end of the first half but, other than that, they didn’t really threaten. We were outstanding.”
On Munday’s brace, King added: “Bill’s outstanding. He got 20 goals from midfield last year and he’s got 14 goals from midfield at the start of February this year.
“You would be happy with those numbers from your forwards.
“He’s been brilliant for us. I cannot speak highly enough of him. Bill doesn’t miss games, he does a lot of unsung work for the team but we certainly know, when he’s in both boxes, he’s a massive threat.
“They came from two more headers from corners on Saturday.”
Deal looked on course to beat promotion rivals Faversham at home last Tuesday after striker Aaron Millbank’s double - only for the Lilywhites to hit back with two goals in the last three minutes in a 2-2 draw as young midfielder Wes Hennessey was dismissed for hitting out at Sam Hasler.
Deal host Hollands & Blair in the league this Tuesday.