WEST Allotment Celtic had to settle for a point at Ryton & Crawcrook Albion on Saturday afternoon, despite dominating proceedings at Kingsley Park Stadium. The visitors fashioned a number of chances on a difficult pitch, but wasteful finishing and the outstanding John Mordey consigned Allotment to a disappointing goalless stalemate.
Allotment made three changes to the side which defeated Horden Colliery Welfare three weeks ago. Marc Dummett, who marked his return to fitness with a goal against the Colliers, returned to his customary left-back position. Impressive deputy Chris Douglas shifted into the corresponding role on the right hand side, with John Pendlebury making way. Winger Tony Lancaster came into the side in place of the unavailable Liam Hudson, whilst Aiden Ames reclaimed his starting berth between the sticks from Ryan Beal.
Both sides played fewer competitive games in January, owing to the adverse weather conditions that had afflicted the north east, but both were eager to kick start February with a win, setting the scene for a high octane, gritty game. The away side had Ames to thank for keeping the scores level in the opening 30 minutes, with the keeper making a low block to keep out the Albion attack.
The visitors exploded into life as the half hour mark approached, and should have taken the lead – and would have, were it not for Mordey. David Dormand charged down an attempted clearance, affording Sean Reid a clear run at goal, but the striker’s low effort was kept out by Albion’s in-form goalkeeper, before his defence cleared the ball from under their own crossbar.
In a frantic period of attacking play, Allotment split the hosts’ defence a further two times. David Henderson weaved his way beyond the back four, but saw his initial effort parried away. The creative midfielder retrieved possession and squared the ball for Reid to slam the ball home, only for the linesman to flag for offside. The chances kept coming for Allotment, and that same flag stayed down as Reid raced onto a through ball. With just the keeper to beat, the former Albion forward failed to find the net against his old club, with Mordey once again saving well with his legs.
The best opportunity of the half was yet to come, and fell at the capable feet of Celtic top scorer Dean Lee. The winger was initially denied a shooting opportunity in the overcrowded penalty area, but was hauled down in a similar situation moments later. Lee dusted himself down and looked set to score his 18th goal of the season, only for Mordey to produce yet more goalkeeping heroics. The winger’s spot-kick down the centre of the goal was deflected into the air by the impressive keeper, denying Allotment a vital goal before the interval.
However, there was still time for another attacking opportunity, and, on the stroke of half-time, the away side had the ball in the back of the net. With Albion centre-half David Hills prostrate near his own goal line, Tony Lancaster squared the ball for Stephen Little to tap in, only for the assistant to incorrectly adjudge Celtic’s centre-half as offside. The incident was a source of consternation for both sides, with the hosts angered by a perceived lack of fair play, and the visitors aggrieved at the nature of the disallowed goal. From the resulting drop ball in the six yard box, Marc Dummett blazed well over the bar.
The second half continued in a similar vein, as Allotment continued to search for that elusive opening goal. Dummett’s corners were beginning to cause chaos in Ryton’s penalty area, and the back four could only clear as far as Reid, who was twice expertly denied by Mordey. At the other end, Aiden Ames was briefly called into action, smothering at the feet of Lawrence McKenna, but Allotment remained in the ascendancy. Once more, a decisive through ball – this time from Tony Lancaster – almost proved to be Ryton’s undoing, but Mordey firmly parried away Lee’s effort in their second duel of the afternoon. The superb Little did manage to beat the keeper for the second time of the afternoon, but his header was cleared off the line by a covering defender, before Reid scooped a shot well over from eight yards out.
Strike partner David Dormand also tested the resolute Mordey from a tight angle, having evaded the attentions of the Albion defence, but the keeper was equal to the effort, prodding the ball beyond harm’s reach with his outstretched leg. Most of the game’s chances, however, had fallen to Reid, and the rangy forward’s frustration was evident after dragging his well-struck shot wide of goal.
With over a dozen chances spurned and the clock ticking down, Ryton sensed the opportunity to claim an unlikely victory, and redoubled their efforts in the last 15 minutes, pushing the visitors back into their own half. Much like Allotment, the hosts were guilty of profligacy in front of goal. McKenna drove a speculative effort straight into the waiting arms of Ames, and a valiant last-ditch clearance from Little prevented the forward from tucking home from close range.
Albion’s crossing left much to be desired throughout the game, but the hosts still threatened from corner kicks. Hills should have done better at the near post, but the burly centre-half could not direct his header towards goal. As the full-time whistle beckoned, Ryton fashioned their best – and final – chance of the afternoon. Fred Iredale’s men poured forward on the counter, and Liam McNamara tore unopposed down the right flank. Well clear of the back four, the full-back went for goal himself, only to lift the ball well over the crossbar and into the stand.
Despite the unpredictable nature of the playing surface, Allotment played some pleasing football, but a lack of cutting edge up front, combined with the superlative performance of Ryton’s custodian, denied Paul Stoneman and his side a justly deserved victory. Conversely, the visitors also managed to register a solid clean sheet – their fifth in the league this season – thanks to the excellent pairing of Stoneman and Little in the heart of the defence. Celtic will hope to convert those chances into goals, and draws into wins, when they travel to Esh Winning on Wednesday evening.