AN early goal from Dean Lee proved to be enough for West Allotment Celtic as they held off Northallerton Town to seal a 1-0 win in North Yorkshire.
The winger’s close-range finish just five minutes in gave Allotment the lead.
But the real stars of the day were the defence, who shut out Northallerton’s attack in superb fashion, ensuring that the club brought three precious points back to North Tyneside.
Celtic travelled south with a significantly light squad as nine players were missing through injury or unavailability.
The versatile Sean Reid dropped back into central defence to partner player-manager Paul Stoneman, and Jed Findlay was handed his first start since October.
Lee Wall once again started between the sticks, but Allotment still managed to name nine first-team regulars in the starting line-up.
West Allotment had conceded within minutes of kick-off when they faced Seaham Red Star on Wednesday night - but they were quickest off the mark at the Regency Stadium, scoring with their first attack of the game.
Lone striker Liam Hudson angled a shot at goal from the left, but the effort looked to be drifting out of play, only for an unfortunate Town defender to get an unnecessary touch. The ball bobbled back into the six-yard box where predatory winger Lee was inevitably lurking, and Allotment’s top scorer made no mistake from close range.
Northallerton were hesitant in their response, with Michael Dunwell’s wayward shot marking their only attempt on goal in the first 30 minutes.
The hosts did attempt to exert pressure on Allotment’s defence, but could not find a way past the back four, with a number of forays forward halted by Marc Dummett’s timely interventions.
The away side could well have doubled their lead courtesy of an occasional scorer, albeit in an unconventional manner.
Centre half Stoneman has scored all of his five goals from corners, but almost found the back of the net from 30 yards out.
The seasoned defender was afforded time to move with the ball and he duly let fly from range, and his surprising effort zipped just wide of the far post.
The ever-busy Hudson hassled the Northallerton defence throughout, and the striker did well to hold off two challengers, but, once inside the area, chose to forgo his passing options, blazing well wide of goal.
At the other end, Stephen Butterworth cleared the bar with a speculative strike, but, despite some late pressure from the hosts, Allotment went into the break one goal to the good.
After a low shot from David Henderson was easily gathered by keeper James Briggs early in the second half, Northallerton stepped it up a gear, and set up shop in Allotment’s half.
A typically crunching challenge in the six-yard box from the outstanding Stoneman denied Adam Emson a surefire equaliser, and Findlay had to be on hand to hack a deep corner away from danger.
Henderson should have put daylight between the two sides in a rare Allotment attack, following good work from Hudson, but could only curl his shot beyond the angle of the crossbar.
The respite was brief as Town surged forward once more in search of that elusive goal, only for Stoneman to put in another whole-hearted challenge deep in his own box to deny the hosts again.
Northallerton substitute Alex Caisley wildly scooped over as the hosts’ frustration became increasingly evident, before two gilt-edged headers were placed wide of goal, much to the relief of the Celtic defence.
With Peter Mulcaster’s men pouring forward, Allotment soaked up the pressure and looked to counter-attack where possible, and almost sealed the win 15 minutes from time.
Hudson and Lee broke effectively down the left and worked their way into the box, but the latter was denied by the palms of Briggs, who deflected the shot back onto the winger and out of play.
Time was not on Town’s side, and the Yorkshiremen committed bodies forward in a desperate attempt to snatch something from the game.
Despite peppering the box with crosses, the closest they came was with a looping header that nestled onto the top of the net.
Reid and Stoneman were impenetrable on the day, ably supported by full backs Dummett and Chris Douglas, and fully deserved their clean sheet.
The same could be said of Allotment in general, who ground out a difficult but valuable win against a strong Northallerton outfit.
The result capped a fantastic week for Celtic, who picked up maximum points in three games against top half opposition.
Stoneman and his charges will look to continue the confidence-boosting run of form when they travel to Wearside outfit Washington on Monday night.