Three and easy for Shildon at West Allotment

A brace from Paul Connor either side of Mark Doninger’s header dragged West Allotment Celtic deeper into the relegation mire as the hosts were swept aside by title-chasers Shildon at Whitley Park.

Allotment were coming into the game off the back of two comprehensive defeats but were boosted by the return of both Ian Dunn and Liam Hudson, the pair having missed the midweek defeat at Benfield.

The latter helped to fashion the game’s first chance, his cross chested down by Sean Reid, who, back to goal, launched an overhead kick high into the side netting.

However, the home side practically gifted Shildon the opener soon after.

The Railwaymen’s attack rarely requires any favours, but it was afforded a sizable one when Sam Hodgson left his marker for dead and strode into acres of space down the right. The full back had all the time in the world to square for Connor, who finished off the move with a deft back-heel from close range on nine minutes.

It could have been two when Mark Hudson caught a half-volley sweetly on his laces, but returning keeper Dan Mullen back-pedalled well to hold the looping effort.

Allotment struggled to retain possession when placed under pressure and again lacked conviction when crossing halfway, a skyward John Pendlebury piledriver the only shot of note until half-time.

Shildon, on the other hand, looked dangerous when going direct, Rae’s hold-up play particularly worthy of note. Strike partner Connor almost made it two, the 36-year-old’s low strike held well by Mullen.

Celtic may not have responded in kind, but they put in more than their fair share of splendid tackles, Marc Dummett as feisty as ever, whilst Billy Greulich-Smith endured a bruising first half when targeted by hard but fair challenges.

The most pertinent tackle seemed to come towards the end of the half when Rae bore down on Mullen, only for a crunching Paul Stoneman intervention to deny the forward - injuring him in the process.

Nevertheless, Allotment could not hang on until half-time. Shildon captain Hudson arrowed a through ball to Doninger, who slipped the ball past Mullen at the far post to afford his side a cushion right on the whistle.

Allotment remained second best when they took to the field once more, and the game was put beyond their reach on the hour mark. This time, Doninger was the provider, his cross steered across goal and in by prolific veteran Connor.

Only when defeat seemed inevitable did Celtic belatedly threaten through Liam Hudson. The winger charged down the left, outwitting Hodgson and cutting in on goal, but Kyle Hayes thwarted any unlikely comeback with a fine reflex stop.

It could so easily have become a rout towards the latter stages, Mullen making a fine save of his own to parry away a goalbound Doninger diving header, before Michael Hall cleared off the line and Lee Scroggins failed to finish off a slick attacking move.

Stoneman’s men should have grabbed a consolation when sub Chris Douglas pulled back to Marc Walton, the usually prolific striker hammering well over from 18 yards.

Shildon were good value for their win, leaving Celtic with much work to do before April.