West Allotment Celtic came away from Whitley Park on Friday night wondering what could have been after squandering a two-goal lead in a frenetic 5-3 defeat to fellow promotion contenders Jarrow Roofing.
Allotment were very much in the ascendancy in the opening forty-five minutes, offering up some fine football for the fans to enjoy, and took the lead with just ten minutes on the clock.
Roofing keeper Dan Regan pushed Liam Hudson’s strike into the path of David Dormand, whose turn and shot was well blocked by his marker, but just when the opportunity looked to have evaded Celtic, Sean Reid drilled the ball back towards goal, taking a sizable deflection on the way that gave Regan no chance.
Dormand twice came close to doubling the lead, failing to make full contact with a whipped corner before being denied by another defensive block, with Stephen Little nodding the resulting corner clear of the crossbar.
A second looked on the cards, and it once again came courtesy of Reid, this time in magnificent fashion.
The midfielder collected a Dormand pass and moved into Roofing’s third before catching Regan unawares with an early strike from 25 yards, the ball sailing over the keeper and into the top corner.
The goal spurred Jarrow into action, with the visitors belatedly beginning to show flashes of their attacking prowess.
A cross-shot from Stephen Young had to be tipped behind by Allotment stopper Bob Rodgerson, and McBryde headed his first chance of the evening harmlessly over.
His strike partner was soon in the mix again, poking past the advancing Rodgerson into the six-yard box, but a desperate block from Stephen Little prevented Anth Myers from applying the finish.
Having weathered the first storm, Celtic reasserted their grip on the game.
Dormand held off his opposite number in the area and laid the ball into the path of Chris Douglas, whose attempt was off target.
Reid went one better, his swerving drive almost deceiving Regan, the young custodian’s reflexes kicking in to parry it away.
With the half drawing to a close and Allotment looking relatively comfortable, Jarrow hit back, halving the deficit with a typically incisive break.
Hudson dwelled on the ball and was duly punished, with Paul Gardiner speeding down the right flank and squaring for McBryde to finish off towards the back post.
The Roofers’ spirits were undoubtedly lifted by the late strike and they emerged a much more dangerous outfit in the second half.
Stephen Young should have scored after being played in by McBryde, instead shooting wide, but Richie McLaughlin did not have to wait long to see his side equalise.
Roofing’s second was almost a carbon copy of the first, albeit from the opposite flank. The mercurial Gardiner was once again the architect, McBryde the finisher, completing his brace from close range.
The leveller knocked the wind out of Allotment and their heads went down in the immediate aftermath, gifting Jarrow possession from kick-off.
Gardiner went from provider to scorer, guiding Young’s cross past Rodgerson with a fine strike.
It could so easily have been four in the midst of the hosts’ disarray had Ian Dunn not thrown himself between the goal and McBryde’s venomous attempt.
The rampant Roofers were not to be denied, and their purple patch yielded a fourth goal.
A trademark set-piece from Dean Nicholson was met by the head of the unmarked Anth Myers at the near post, and the combination of Rodgerson and Paul Stoneman could not keep it out.
A shell-shocked Allotment side mustered the strength to go again, with Ian Dunn hammering a volley just over Regan’s crossbar, and the home side were soon back in it with 25 minutes left to play.
Marc Dummett’s corner towards the back post was nodded in by that man Reid, completing an impressive hat-trick in the process.
The game was delicately poised entering its final stages, with both sides looking capable of attaining their desired outcomes.
McBryde was denied a hat-trick by a second block, with Little getting in front of the 26-year-old’s goalbound header.
At the other end, full back Dummett twice came close to snatching a point for Allotment, first with a deflected low drive that Regan did well to tip behind, before forcing the keeper to make another fine save from a looping header.
The hosts were incensed by what could be construed as lenient officiating – Dummett’s collision with the metal railing the most notable incident to go unpunished – as the intensity ratcheted up towards the end of the game.
Allotment continued to loft the ball into Jarrow’s final third, but it was the visitors who would get the game’s final goal, killing off a remarkable contest.
Stu Nicholson released substitute Darren Reay on the right and the former Celtic midfielder slotted beneath Rodgerson to seal all three points for his current side.
There was more drama to come as Stephen Little was dismissed for an off the ball incident with seconds left on the clock, and the frayed tensions that had been brewing throughout the half ultimately spilled over after the game.
The ugly scenes should not overshadow what was a pulsating tie between two top sides, with plenty of good football on display from Celtic and Roofing alike.