WEST Allotment Celtic entered Saturday’s home game with Bedlington Terriers on the back of an unlucky defeat at Penrith.
Already short of Craig Short, Paul Gardiner and David Molloy, manager Tom Wade was forced into another belated change when Stephen Buzzeo was forced to withdraw just moments before kick-off.
And the worst fears of the home supporters began to be realised after just five minutes when Allotment old-boy Alex Benjamin was allowed far too much time and space on the Terriers’ right flank.
The league’s leading scorer looked up and whipped an inviting ball into the box where the predatory Anthony Shandran buried a low shot beyond Chris Bannon from ten yards.
To their credit, Allotment fought back well and put Bedlington under pressure but another former Celtic player, keeper Kevin Morton, simply was not tested enough.
The lack of a cutting edge has been a fatal flaw for the entire campaign; it was especially prevalent at Penrith and it was on show once again against a shaky Terriers rearguard.
Yet, despite this charge of inefficiency in front of goal, Allotment did manage to equalise in the 22nd minute and it was the result of a good move.
The energetic James Novak picked up the ball after some solid midfield battling by his colleagues and he demonstrated some useful pace before curving in a low cross that coincided beautifully with the run from midfield of Matthew Wade, who duly scrambled the ball home from eight yards for his first goal for the club.
Frustratingly, the parity lasted just ten minutes following a careless free-kick conceded on the edge of the Allotment box.
Richard Hodgson’s straightforward cross was met by Chris Carr and the Terriers’ centre-half headed the ball home.
A killer third was scored six minutes later when Celtic lost the ball in the middle of the pitch and Hodgson’s through ball found Shandran who scored.
The second half was a non-event until the final ten minutes.
With nine minutes remaining, a goal-bound shot was clearly pushed to safety by Michael Hall and the defender was walking off even before the referee whipped out the inevitable red card.
Shandran converted the spot-kick to clinch his own hat-trick.
The final moments were agony for Celtic as Bedlington players queued up to try and get on the scoresheet. Thanks to heroics from Bannon, only one more goal was recorded; a simple header for Benjamin.
It completed a demoralising afternoon for the home side, who are at Stokesley on Saturday.
Allotment: Bannon, Pendlebury, Latimer, Hughes, Hall, McAlindon (Gordon), Wade, Evans (Dunn), Roper, Hamilton, Novak. Subs not used: Scott and Molloy.