WEST Allotment Celtic battled back from behind three times to snatch a point against Seaham Red Star as Tony Lancaster’s stoppage time header earned his side a share of the spoils.
With a number of players unavailable, manager Paul Stoneman opted for a 4-5-1 formation, bringing Mark Allen into central midfield and deploying Sean Reid as a lone striker.
Seaham looked to take advantage of this cautious setup early on, with Stoneman surviving appeals for a handball after a last-ditch block in the area.
The player-manager was involved at the other end minutes later, nodding a free header into the side netting from a set piece.
However, the home side’s early pressure paid off in the 13th minute when midfielder Michael Turnbull collected a Kevin Gordon pass outside the area, got the better of his marker, and fired high past Aiden Ames in the West Allotment goal.
The away side looked dangerous on the counter, and almost levelled instantly after Reid burst past two defenders and squared the ball for onrushing winger Dean Lee, whose shot was parried at close range by Seaham keeper Shaun Newbrook.
The pair linked up again in the 25th minute as Reid rose well to nod Marc Dummett’s lofted cross into the path of Lee, who made no mistake at the second time of asking.
With parity restored, Red Star redoubled their attacking efforts and were unfortunate not to retake the lead before half-time.
Gordon saw two efforts cannon back off the post and bar in the space of ten minutes before curling another effort tantalisingly wide.
Seaham began the second half in much the same vein as they had ended the first, pushing forward and winning set pieces in dangerous positions.
However, clear cut chances were at a premium, as Allotment’s back four worked hard to nullify the threat of the hosts.
The visitors did manage to carve out half-chances of their own, but were unable to take any of them – Stoneman heading well wide from another Dummett corner, and substitute Michael Rush’s snapshot towards an empty net charged down.
The game unexpectedly sprang into life 15 minutes from time, as rangy forward Channon North’s goal galvanised both sides into action.
Red Star hit their opponents on the counter, releasing Daniel Olusoga with a defence-splitting pass. The forward held the ball up in the box before finding substitute North, who bundled home from ten yards out.
With just ten minutes remaining, West Allotment finally exploited the home side’s inability to defend set pieces. From the corner, the metronomic Dummett once again found Stoneman at the back post,and this time the veteran centre-back nodded the ball home.
However, Allotment’s joy seemed to be short-lived, as Seaham instantly restored their slender advantage from a corner of their own.
In the ensuing scramble, Dummett managed to clear the ball off the line, but only as far as Carl Thorp, who powered it through the crowd and into the back of the net.
Undeterred, Stoneman urged his players to keep calm, and their collective patience was rewarded as the game entered stoppage time.
A late corner represented a last throw of the dice for Allotment, who threw men forward in search of a last-gasp equaliser.
Seaham failed to deal with another teasing Dummett cross, and Tony Lancaster’s header found its way past the despairing Newbrook.
Stoneman will hope that his side’s battling commitment and never-say-die attitude will continue to prevail, with two difficult trips to Stokesley and Spennymoor coming up in the next seven days.