A woeful first-half performance from West Allotment Celtic on the final day of the season did not do justice to the rest of their campaign as the Northern League division two runners-up went down 3-1 at Thornaby.
With promotion already in the bag, Allotment opted to field a number of squad players in the swan song fixture, the likes of Marc Allen, Kallum McGlen and Dean Lee all getting a runout, whilst Michael Bell featured in a rare striking role in the absence of Rob Nolan.
The visitors looked disjointed from the off, and were soon behind after just eight minutes. Creative midfielder David Wells swept past Paul Stoneman on his way into the area, pulling across for Joe Melvin to open the scoring.
Despite their sluggish start, Celtic could have been level almost instantly.
Sean Reid has put many sides to the sword this season with his surging runs, and threatened to do so once more, bursting into Thornaby’s final third and squaring for Dean Lee. He seemed unable to miss from mere yards out, but, under pressure from the covering defender, the frustrated wide man instead clattered the ball off the crossbar.
Nevertheless, the hosts were still looking the keener of the two teams, and a glorious moment of magic from midfield doubled their lead within quarter of an hour of play.
Having set up the first, Wells bagged the second, his stunning 30-yard dipper catching out Allotment’s defence, as well as keeper Chris Bannon.
Reid came close to responding for his bewildered side, one of his trademark free kicks deflected behind, but the Teessiders remained hungry, and continued to pose the greater threat.
Sean Hardy headed wide from a corner before Ged Livingstone, the Blues’ clinical top scorer, cut inside the otherwise gutsy Pendlebury with ease, only to see his shot rebound back off the far post and away from danger.
He looked destined to hit the back of the net minutes later, capitalising on Stephen Little’s error to make a beeline for the box, but the centre half made amends with a tremendous last-ditch tackle.
With Bell cutting an isolated figure in attack, it was down to Reid to test the physical back four, going close with one effort and marginally failing to get a proper connection on a Pendlebury set-piece.
Allotment looked to be starting at a two-goal deficit as they headed towards the break, but the Blues were not quite done, grabbing a third in stoppage time.
A slick one-two saw Callum Wilson receive possession towards the six-yard box, but the winger tangled with Chris Douglas with the goal gaping. He dusted himself down to take the resulting spot kick, sending Bannon the wrong way with his tidy finish.
Celtic looked to restore some pride when they returned, albeit without player-manager Stoneman, who had sustained a nasty cut towards the end of the half.
David Dormand was on in his place, with Reid dropping into defence, and the newly-introduced forward almost made an instant impact.
He came close within minutes of the restart, and was once more close to finding the target, his first-time strike from the edge of the box whistling inches wide.
As Allotment crept back into the match, so too did some of their younger players.
McGlen was desperately unfortunate not to get on the scoresheet, successfully challenging keeper Paul Edwards in the air but seeing his follow-up cleared off the line.
Bell was next to come despairingly close, latching onto a fine low delivery from Pendlebury before crashing his shot onto the outside of the post.
The pressure soon paid off, and it was the same two players who were instrumental in hauling Allotment back into it.
Pendlebury marauded towards the edge of the area, timing his through ball to Bell with perfection. The 22-year-old made no mistake this time with a fine finish, sliding the ball across goal and into the far corner.
The reinvigorated visitors looked more like the team that had attained division one status not two weeks ago, and only another goal line clearance prevented Dormand from reducing Thornaby’s advantage to a single goal.
Even when the forward rounded Edwards, Celtic could not find a way through, with no green and white shirts in the immediate vicinity to tuck away his pull back. McGlen belatedly arrived from the wing to try and salvage the opportunity, but his shot was blocked by the retreating droves of defenders.
With Allotment committing men forward - including substitute goalkeeper Ryan Beal, on as Lee’s replacement out wide – Thornaby had one last chance to regain the three-goal cushion.
Wilson broke clear of the defence but could not beat the alert Bannon, the resident custodian coming out to make a fine block.
Dormand headed a Liam Hudson cross off target in stoppage time, but a second consolation remained out of Allotment’s reach, despite the vastly improved performance after half-time.
The game proved to be an underwhelming finale to a fantastic season for Celtic, who can now begin to look towards another top flight campaign in August.