A late goal from Stokesley’s Gary Redman denied West Allotment Celtic all three points on Saturday with a blood and thunder match ending 2-2 at the Sports Club.
With a potentially significant game against promotion-chasing Heaton Stannington set to go ahead on Wednesday night, player-manager Paul Stoneman chose to rest a number of key players, himself included, handing Roy Gordon, Tony Lancaster, David Borley and Dean Lee rare starts, with counterparts Marc Dummett, Michael Bell and Liam Hudson taking up their places on the bench.
Despite ringing the changes, Allotment started positively on an unavoidably heavy pitch owing to the previous night’s downpour.
Lancaster forced Daniel Lynas into his first save of the day, his header from a fine Gordon delivery nestling straight into the keeper’s arms, before a similarly fine cross from the full back was met by David Dormand, getting up ahead of Stokesley’s custodian but nodding wide of goal.
Gordon’s promising start down the left suffered a setback after 14 minutes. The veteran’s poorly weighted backpass towards Ryan Beal allowed Greg Peel to surge forward and slot the ball beneath the stranded keeper.
Having gifted the hosts the opening goal, Allotment began to press with a little more urgency.
A firm free kick from set-piece specialist Sean Reid was well saved low down by Lynas.
Dean Lee came even closer four minutes later, working the ball forwards with Dormand and lashing inches over the crossbar from the edge of the area.
When the equaliser did come it was courtesy of another disastrous defensive error.
A deep cross seemed to pose little threat to the Stokesley defence, sailing into the path of the waiting Lynas, but his centre half took it upon himself to intercept the ball first and his poor touch with his chest allowed Dormand to steal possession and finish coolly from an acute angle.
In the conditions, there were more admirable tackles than passes on display in North Yorkshire, with Ian Dunn and Stephen Little putting in their fair share of crunching challenges, and in such circumstances, there were bound to be casualties.
Midfielder David Borley had to leave the field after half an hour, having sustained a knock to the foot, and was replaced by Michael Bell.
For their part, the Stokesley back four had not recovered from a different kind of knock, their confidence dented by the preventable leveller, and almost gifted Celtic with their second. Captain Stuart Browne was within inches of poking into his own net.
However, he could do little from the resulting corner as Allotment snatched the lead.
Dormand met the set-piece, flicking the ball across the line and into the path of Little, who could not miss from the closest of ranges.
Having already bagged a goal and an assist, Dormand had two chances to extend his side’s advantage before half-time.
The forward did well to win an aerial challenge with two opponents, racing through towards goals but flicking high and wide of the top corner.
Minutes later, the former Morpeth man sprang the offside trap once more, hurtling down the right and squaring across goal for Lee, who was denied a simple finish by the presence of retreating full back Lloyd Evans.
Monty Alexander’s men came back stronger in the second half, a looping cross from the right almost catching out Beal but drifting marginally wide.
Peel sporadically threatened to double his tally, and could have done so after beating his man and cutting in from the left, but instead chose to pull it back to Andrew Lambert on the edge of the box, but his goalbound attempt was well held by Beal.
Allotment rallied briefly, Lancaster bringing the first save of the half from Lynas with a firm shot from the right wing.
Looking to recapture the dominance of the first half, Allotment threw on Rob Nolan for his debut, pushing another forward up front alongside Dormand, and he almost made the desired impact within minutes of his introduction.
Lancaster got round Matthew Robinson and squared the ball inside for the former Shields striker, who was inches away from marking his first Allotment appearance with a goal.
Stokesley full back Robinson was a lick of paint away from hauling his side level, his fine free kick from 30 yards flashing just beyond the angle of Beal’s goal.
But it was arguably a less intentional delivery that grabbed Stokesley a share of the points late on.
Wide man Gary Redman sent over a looping cross from the right and the backpedaling Beal could not retreat quick enough to prevent the ball from floating over his head and into the top corner.
Either side could have won it in the final five minutes, with Dormand seeing a header hacked away from the six-yard box and Stokesley threatening with half a dozen set pieces of their own, but both sides had to settle for a draw.
Allotment will undoubtedly be the more disappointed of the two sides, their drop in performance after half-time costing them all three points against a gutsy and hardworking outfit.