DESPITE throwing away a two goal lead, West Allotment Celtic came back to defeat Teesside outfit Thornaby 5-2 in an enthralling encounter at Whitley Park.
Dean Lee’s 20th goal of the season and a low Liam Hudson strike put the hosts comfortably in front at the break, but a Gary Mitchell penalty and Stephen Morrison’s rebound finish levelled the scores within ten minutes of the restart. However, Allotment redoubled their efforts, and further goals from David Dormand, Lee and Sean Reid sealed the win for the home side.
West Allotment had to make do without a number of key players for Saturday’s tie, as Stephen Little, Simon Wilthew, Marc Allen and Tony Lancaster were all absent, and David Henderson missed out through suspension. With bona fide centre-halves thin on the ground, Reid partnered Paul Stoneman at the back. In-form wide man Chris Douglas started the game on the left wing, with regular winger Lee shifted into a more central role.
Dormand and Dunn spurned early half-chances for the hosts, but it was another sensational effort by the latter which had the fans applauding early on. The captain collected the ball on the edge of the area and glided past two challengers, only to see his deft chip from a tight angle come back off the woodwork.
Division two’s form side did not have to wait long for an opening goal, and it came courtesy of a familiar name on the scoresheet. Dean Lee received the ball in the area after a fine team move down the left, and the prolific midfielder curled his effort beyond Nick Farrell in the Thornaby goal.
The Teessiders could have been down by two goals just minutes later, but Liam Hudson could only plant a weak header straight at Farrell. The missed opportunity belatedly spurred the Blues on, and Dunn had to make the first of many blocks to deny the visitors, before Robert Pearson fired over from the resulting corner kick.
Despite the brief resurgence, Allotment had the upper hand in all areas of the pitch, and soon doubled their advantage. This time, Celtic attacked down the right, affording Hudson the time and space to slide the ball into the bottom corner.
Stoneman’s charges could – and should – have put the result beyond doubt before half-time, but missed a hatful of chances to build an unassailable lead. David Dormand’s header and Douglas’ low drive were easily gathered by Farrell, and Michael Bell headed well wide when completely unmarked in the box. Even Allotment’s top scorer was denied by the keeper, who reacted fast enough to gather the ball from the lurking Dormand. At the other end, only Jamie Denning briefly threatened, flashing an effort wide of Ryan Beal’s far post.
However, Allotment went into the break looking comfortable on paper and in play.
Thornaby looked like a different side after the interval, and hauled themselves back into the game within minutes of the restart. Makeshift defender Reid was adjudged to have fouled his opposing number in the area, and Gary Mitchell duly dispatched the penalty.
Five minutes later, the Teessiders completed a most unlikely comeback. A looping corner caused chaos in the area, and Douglas did well to clear the ball off the line. The ball broke to Stephen Morrison, who slammed beyond Beal to level the score.
The home side weathered the brief storm, and were soon in the ascendancy once more. Lee dragged an effort wide of goal, and player-manager Stoneman cannoned a header against the crossbar. The most shocking miss was yet to come. Dormand’s aerial challenge on the halfway line afforded Hudson a clear run at goal, but, with time and space aplenty, the forward tamely shot straight at Farrell.
With the game still finely poised, Allotment finally took the lead. An initial effort from Dormand was well saved by the Thornaby number one, but the poacher reacted quickest to the rebound, and emphatically slammed home to restore the host’s advantage with 15 minutes remaining.
The game looked set for a tense and nailbiting finale – but a wiser Celtic side were not to be pegged back again. Instead, the two top scorers combined to seal all three points. Slipping in behind the back four, Dormand resisted the urge to go for goal himself, unselfishly squaring the ball across the box into the path of Lee. The attacker’s effort soared into the top corner, guaranteeing all three points for the Tynesiders.
There was even time for Sean Reid to add gloss to the victory with a towering header at the back post, following a robust headed pass across goal from fellow centre-half Stoneman. Allotment could have had a sixth in stoppage time, but Farrell palmed Kallum McGlen’s strike away from goal, and Dormand’s fierce follow-up was flicked over the bar by a covering defender.
Despite starting the second half in sluggish fashion, West Allotment showed great courage and determination to come back and reassert their dominance. The hosts ultimately ran out comprehensive winners, thanks not only to the efforts of the goalscorers, but also the performances of Dunn, Dummett and Douglas, to name but a few.
The healthy victory stretches Celtic’s unbeaten run to nine games. Allotment will be looking to extend said run into double figures against Seaham Red Star in the Ernest Armstrong Memorial Cup on Wednesday night.