Relegation a serious threat as Celtic lose eight in a row

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ON A desperate afternoon at Blue Flames, West Allotment slumped to a numbing defeat against an Esh Winning side that had managed only three league wins all season.

The sobering outcome saw Celtic slip into one of the three relegation places and the team now faces a major scrap to avoid the drop – an experience the club has never suffered throughout its 83-year history.

However, unless there is a significant improvement in performance and results, relegation is a clear and present danger.

The home side slipped to an eighth consecutive league defeat – something that has not happened since the 1965-66 campaign.

One of the underlying causes of the current malaise is the seemingly never-ending stream of injuries to key players.

The latest setbacks forced manager Tom Wade to field a totally new full back pairing in the shape of Jolin Pendlebury and Michael Latimer.

Allotment went into the game three days after going agonisingly close to knocking league leaders Consett out of the League Cup on their own pitch.

It was an encouraging showing that was only thwarted by a refereeing decision that gifted the Steelmen a decisive goal deep into extra-time.

In retrospect, perhaps that additional 30 minutes was too much of a burden to carry against Esh Winning.

However, no one should be fooled by the fact that Esh scored both of their goals in the final four minutes of the game as they were well on top long before that.

The opening half of the match was no classic, as both sides huffed and puffed to no great effect.

Allotment squandered a number of promising positions on the flanks by lashing in wild crosses and, when the ball was delivered into the danger area, no one was there to take advantage.

In the other half, Esh went close on a couple of occasions; it took a desperate double block to deny the visitors the opening goal and then Henderson-Reay curled a fine shot against the upright midway through the half.

Just when they needed it, Allotment got a break early in the second period when Chris Reid headed home following a corner.

The lead should have been doubled soon after when Marc Walton released Paul Gardiner but the midfielder could only hit his shot against the keeper.

Paul Gordon then missed another inviting opportunity in the 72nd minute when a long clearance from Chris Bannon allowed him to burst into the box, but the youngster dragged his shot well wide of the far post.

As the game slipped into the final quarter of an hour, Esh sensed that Celtic were becoming increasingly nervy and sitting deeper and deeper in their own half.

Unable to retain any sort of possession, the Allotment rearguard was under constant pressure, with clearances being returned as if on elastic.

The tide of yellow was repelled on several occasions, not least when Bannon produced two excellent saves in quick succession to deny Henderson-Reay and Nixon.

However, as Canute discovered, a tide can only be denied for so long and, in the 86th minute, the home defence finally took in water – Henderson-Reay the scorer, wriggling his body to shake off defenders and get into position to stab the ball home from close range.

The final wave crashed over Allotment deep into injury time as an Esh surge was not cleared and Thompson gleefully thumped the loose ball high into the net.

There was barely time to restart the match and Allotment now have to look at teams below them in the table as well as those above.

Allotment: Bannon, Pendlebury, Latimer, Reid, Scott, Dunn, Hamilton, McAlindon, Gordon, Walton (Morris), Gardiner (Buzzeo). Subs not used: Strachan, Wade.