DESPITE going behind in the first half, West Allotment Celtic salvaged a point at Morpeth Town courtesy of Liam Hudson’s timely finish – but they may feel like they could have pinched all three points at Craik Park.
Paul Stoneman had to make do without as many as seven first team players for the Easter Monday match, with Marc Dummett, Chris Douglas and Marc Allen amongst the notable absentees.
Squad depletion did not prevent Stoneman from making other changes; Kallum McGlen and Sean Reid were both rested, with Michael Bell and Hudson deputising.
The reverse fixture had produced a pulsating 4-4 draw back in November, but recent history rarely looked like repeating itself after a cagey first half from both sides.
Stoneman saw an early header fly over the bar, whilst half-chances for Dean Lee and Hudson were neutralised by the offside flag and a defensive clearance respectively.
Allotment’s pressure on the ball made it difficult for the home side to find their feet, and limited the 47-goal pairing of Michael Chilton and Steven Anderson to one paltry chance in 45 minutes. Anderson fed the former, but the usually clinical finisher poked over the bar.
The best chance fell to another man turning out against his old club.
Ex-Highwayman David Dormand was presented with a gilt-edged chance in the area as the hosts failed to clear a corner, but the striker could not add to his 21-goal tally, swinging and missing at the moving ball from six yards out.
Dormand’s chance aside, both teams looked comfortable dealing with their opponents’ attacking forays, and some sound defensive work from Allotment ensured it remained goalless at half-time.
John Pendlebury nodded behind for a corner with an attacker looming in the area, and was there again towards the back post to clear another set-piece.
As the half drew to a close, a remarkably brave block from Simon Wilthew yards from goal denied Morpeth.
The second half began in similar fashion, with both sides effectively nullifying one another in attack – however, one lapse on the visitors’ part gifted Morpeth the lead.
Ryan Beal’s poor goal kick fell to Anderson who played in strike partner Chilton. With the defence caught out by the error, the former Celtic favourite raced clear and stroked it beyond the keeper.
Morpeth looked increasingly likely to grab a second, and Chilton almost had his second of the afternoon but could not meet a wicked Mark Warmsley cross from the right.
That all changed with the introduction of Reid, on in place of cautioned captain Ian Dunn.
The livewire midfielder was in the thick of it instantly, his good work presenting Hudson with a shooting opportunity, but he could only loft the ball over the crossbar.
Reid’s presence gave Allotment a much-needed focal point in the middle of the park, and, with almost everything going through the midfielder, an equaliser seemed inevitable.
Lee received the ball from Reid and stepped inside full back Shaun Henderson, but snatched at his shot wide.
Allotment finally began to stretch their opponents, and makeshift right-winger Liam Hudson exploited this to its fullest advantage. The powerful attacker surged past two defenders en route to goal, before sliding the ball past Steven Mundy to level the scores with 15 minutes remaining.
A galvanised Allotment kept pushing for the winner, restricting Nick Gray’s men to brief counter attacks.
One such foray forward almost caught Allotment out as substitute Alex Benjamin strode forward with intent. However, Beal atoned for his earlier error with a fine save, tipping Benjamin’s goalbound effort around the far post.
However, the momentum was with Allotment, and the visitors could consider themselves unlucky not to have snatched all three points in the final ten minutes.
Reid curled a free kick inches over and saw a thumping header saved expertly at point-blank range by Mundy.
A timely deflection on a Dean Lee effort had the ball bobbling marginally wide of the post, as Morpeth hung on.
With minutes remaining, the winger successfully rounded Mundy at pace, but the keeper had done enough to force him wide and his delayed effort was blocked by defenders.
Allotment will be content with a point, but could have had all three on another day.
Integral to the Allotment machine was Reid, who was involved in every noteworthy attacking move since coming off the bench, whilst Michael Bell put in a strong shift as a deeper central midfielder.
The resolute draw rounded out an impressive Easter for West Allotment, who took four points from a possible six against top-six opposition.
Alottment entertain Tow Law Town on Saturday before a local derby at North Shields on Monday, April 8.
The hectic schedule then continues with the visit of Seaham Red Star on Thursday, April 10.