Three second-half goals from Sean Reid, Liam Hudson and Lawrence McKenna set West Allotment Celtic on course for a 3-0 win at home to Northallerton Town, another side looking to contend for promotion this season.
The victory was not as comprehensive as the scoreline may suggest as Town spurned a host of chances of their own but were made to rue their profligacy by a far more clinical Celtic side.
The Yorkshiremen fashioned the first opportunity of the evening through debutant Freddie Huscroft, the towering forward turning inside John Pendlebury and firing just wide of keeper Bob Rodgerson’s far post.
Allotment responded with two half-chances of their own, with a Liam Hudson cross evading Sean Reid by mere inches, before David Dormand half-volleyed an awkward attempt wide of goal.
The visitors should have taken the lead after 20 minutes of play – and were a lick of paint away from doing so.
After Huscroft’s goalbound strike was blocked, the ball found its way to the dangerous Colin Anderson, who skipped around Rodgerson, only to fire against the woodwork following good pressure from Chris Douglas.
Wide man Christian Holliday was next to miss the target for Town, and Darren Kokes saw an effort deflected away from harm, but it was Celtic who finished the half in stronger fashion and were similarly guilty of missing a gilt-edged chance before the interval.
Dormand burst clear of the back four, with only Alex Kell standing between him and the opening goal, but the keeper did well to save and hold the forward’s attempt.
The break did little to halt Celtic’s resurgence, and, after Dormand poked over within moments of the restart, the hosts were handed the chance to break the deadlock from 12e yards, with Howlett’s challenge on Liam Hudson deemed to be a foul. The midfield playmaker sent Kell the wrong way with his powerful penalty.
Allotment almost put daylight between themselves and their hardworking opponents, but Kallum McGlen’s low drive thundered off the post and back into the arms of the relieved Kell.
Celtic almost regretted their misfortune minutes later as Northallerton went desperately close to levelling the scores.
Daniel McLachlan found space for himself deep in Allotment’s penalty area, but the superb Rodgerson was equal to his effort, saving and holding an effort that should have been placed far beyond his reach.
The third-choice deputy was there again to deny Peter Mulcaster’s men an equaliser in a back-and-forth encounter, tipping Holliday’s deft cross away from the waiting Anderson at the back post.
And yet, just as Town were pushing hard for the leveller, Allotment doubled their advantage.
Dormand’s volleyed pass floated over the backline and into Northallerton’s final third, but ‘keeper Kell hesitated in coming for the ball, and Hudson powered forward to beat him to it, before deftly lobbing the ball over his head and into the bottom corner.
Northallerton and their aggressively vocal fans felt that they should have had a penalty of their own following a debatable Ian Dunn handball in the box, but their pleas fell on deaf ears.
At the other end, fresh introduction Connor Graham almost made it three with his first meaningful touch of the game, but his finish from Dormand’s tee-up was poked away by the leg of Kell.
With 15 minutes left on the clock, there was still time for Town to haul themselves back into it, but any chance of that soon dissipated after the most shocking miss of the evening, courtesy of centre-forward McLachlan. Another floated ball from Holliday found the 24-year-old in acres of space, but his header from eight yards sailed high and wide of the target.
The latest in a string of misses knocked the wind out of Northallerton’s sails, and Allotment – the stronger of the two sides in the second half – wrapped up the victory with a third and final goal in the dying moments.
David Henderson weaved his magic from midfield, dancing around three desperate challenges in the box and laying it into the path of substitute McKenna, who made no mistake from close range.
West Allotment ultimately deserved to take all three points from a hotly-contested game, having stepped up their game in the second half.
Town played their part but found Stoneman and Little tough to beat at the back, and when they did, their own wastefulness – combined with the presence of the assured Rodgerson between the sticks – served to keep their forwards off the scoresheet.
The impressive hosts have now leapfrogged North Shields into third place – just one point behind their defeated Yorkshire adversaries, with five games still in hand.