Despite a mediocre performance, West Allotment Celtic made it three wins in four in scoring two late goals to overcome Stokesley 3-2 at a rain-soaked Whitley Park on Saturday.
Sean Reid and Chris Douglas were both unavailable for Allotment’s first home game of the season, joining a further five players on the absentee list.
But the hosts still fielded a strong starting line-up against their North Yorkshire visitors.
Despite dominating in the possession stakes, Paul Stoneman’s side failed to test visiting keeper Thomas Laverick in the first 30 minutes, with Dean Lee’s blocked effort and a harmlessly wide shot from Marc Allen constituting Allotment’s only real attempts on goal.
Instead, Stokesley were presented with the first genuine opening of the match.
Gerard Richardson believed he was unlawfully knocked to the floor in the box, but sloppy play moments later gifted Andrew Lambert a clear sight of goal, only for the attacker to sky the opportunity.
When the visitors did get an effort on target, Ryan Beal was there to keep the scores level. A skidding long-range effort from Matthew Robinson looked destined for the bottom corner, only for Beal to tip the fast-travelling ball past the far post.
Chances were at a premium, largely down to a distinct lack of creativity on both sides, but it was Allotment who seized the initiative, courtesy of David Dormand.
The forward rose unmarked to meet Liam Hudson’s high cross from the right, directing his looped header into the top corner.
The home side could still have been pulled back before the interval as Dunn played the ball straight to Richardson just outside the box, but he made amends with a fantastic last-ditch sliding challenge.
Allotment were a little fortunate to be ahead at the break, but the lead did not last long upon their return for the second half.
A Stokesley opportunity in the box looked to have been diffused by Glenn Ford’s timely interception, but the otherwise impressive centre half could only look on as his attempted clearance ricocheted off his opponent. The ball broke kindly for Richardson who placed his pinpoint strike into the bottom corner, beyond the reach of Beal.
It soon went from bad to worse for Allotment.
Right back Daniel Jones went unnoticed in the penalty area and headed home a looping cross to complete a quickfire turnaround in the visitors’ favour.
Stunned into action, Celtic almost pegged their plucky opponents back immediately.
After the referee ignored calls for a penalty in the hosts’ favour, Ford was presented with an unlikely yard of space on the edge of the box, but his curling shot evaded Laverick’s far post by the tightest of margins.
Liam Hudson had another penalty appeal turned down - this time for the use of a hand to block his goalbound shot - but an equaliser looked increasingly unlikely.
Any chance of getting back into the match would likely come from a set-piece, and so it proved ten minutes from time.
Ian Dunn nipped ahead of Laverick to get a vital touch to Michael Bell’s knockdown from a corner, and the covering defender could not prevent the ball from crossing the line.
Having under performed in an attacking capacity for much of the match, Celtic pressed for all three points, but any renewed hope of a win seemed to dissipate when Hudson skewed wide from a shooting position.
Understandably, Stokesley were content to slow the pace and take a point back to Yorkshire, but their game plan was undone by a foul 30 yards from goal. Up stepped left back Marc Dummett, who curled a spectacular free kick around the wall and into the opposite top corner, sparking an impassioned pile-on next to the dugout.
Despite seeing his side snatch the win in the dying stages of the game, Celtic player-manager Paul Stoneman pulled no punches in his post-match assessment.
He said: “I thought we were awful from start to finish, but on the positive side, we played awful and still got three points.
“I’m very disappointed with the performance, but happy with the result in the end.”
Allotment may have made hard work of the win, but Stoneman will be looking for a similar result - and a far better performance - when Celtic host high-flying Whickham on Friday night.