A late winner from Michael Bell ensured that West Allotment Celtic emerged as victors in a thrilling seven-goal contest at Tow Law Town on Saturday afternoon.
Persistent rain in the run-up to the fixture had, much like last year, taken its toll on the playing surface at Ironworks Road, but both sides toiled admirably on a heavy pitch – and either team could have won the day, with the lead constantly changing hands in a topsy-turvy encounter.
Allotment suffered the first blow before a ball had been kicked, losing Chris Douglas to a back injury in the warm-up and forcing player-manager Paul Stoneman to promote John Pendlebury from the bench. The visitors brushed off their early setback to race into the lead after just five minutes, a Marc Dummett corner powered home by the head of veteran centre-half Stoneman.
In poor visibility and near-freezing temperatures, Celtic soon doubled their advantage in County Durham. David Henderson charged down an attempted clearance, and namesake Dormand took full advantage, racing clear and finishing with aplomb past Stephen Robinson, bagging his eighth goal of the season in the process.
Two goals to the good and looking comfortable, West Allotment were soon thrown into disarray by their second injury of the day – to their replacement right-back. Vice-captain Pendlebury pulled up, and his replacement by Dean Lee prompted a reshuffle at the back. Tow Law seized the opportunity to strike, hitting the back of the net three times within the space of 15 minutes.
Prolific young striker Daniel Wilson, in his second spell at the club following a short stint at Newton Aycliffe, reduced arrears, and full-back Lewis Harrison struck soon after to level the scores. The resurgent Lawyers completed their remarkable and somewhat unlikely turnaround before the half-time whistle, midfield dangerman Scott Thompson finishing beyond stand-in keeper Bob Rodgerson to see the hosts score the fifth goal of the opening period, taking the lead for the first time before the break.
Celtic were dealt another blow five minutes after the restart, putting any chance of a positive result in serious jeopardy.
Talismanic attacker Sean Reid, the club’s top scorer on 27 goals, could not shake off a bad knock sustained late in the first half, and had to be replaced by former Jarrow Roofing man David Borley.
Nevertheless, Allotment kept the work rate high against their steadfast opponents, and, after both sides had spurned a host of chances at either end, the Tynesiders hauled themselves level. The goal was far from pretty, following on from an almighty desperate scramble deep in Tow Law’s box, where another centre-half fired his way onto the scoresheet. This time, it was Stephen Little who eventually managed to find the back of the net from close range, restoring parity with 20 minutes left on the clock.
With the game finely poised, Celtic pushed forward down the flanks, and ultimately sealed a gutsy turnaround of their own in the closing stages. In Reid’s absence, it was another in-form midfielder who struck for Allotment. Michael Bell had previously scored eight goals in an already productive campaign for the 22-year-old, and his ninth of the season guaranteed that Allotment would take all three points back to North Tyneside. The promising playmaker found enough space in a crowded area to slam home a low cross, breaking Tow Law hearts with the emphatic finish.
The impressive comeback sees Celtic cement their placing towards the top of the table, now four points clear of local promotion rivals Heaton Stannington, and will look to extend their ten-match unbeaten run further when Alnwick Town visit Whitley Park on Friday night.