West Allotment Celtic further cemented their status as early promotion contenders with a deceptively comfortable 4-2 win at rock-bottom Ryton & Crawcrook Albion on Saturday afternoon.
The adverse weather leading up to the game had significantly affected the playing surface at Kingsley Park, but it had little initial impact on Allotment, who made a blistering start to the game.
David Dormand forced Steven Robinson into the first save of the afternoon following dogged work from the tireless Ian Dunn, before a speculative 40-yard lob from Marc Dummett almost dipped over the retreating keeper’s head.
But the pressure soon told as Sean Reid broke the deadlock after just ten minutes.
Liam Hudson, restored to the starting line-up following his game-changing introduction in midweek, burst forward and squared for the 21-year-old, who curled an effort into the top corner.
Within four minutes, Allotment had doubled their lead, this time the favour was repaid to Hudson, who beat the offside trap and shook off the attention of two markers before smashing the ball across Robinson.
Allotment threatened to run amok against the basement outfit, with Hudson proving to be a thorn in the side of full back David Below.
First, the attacker bustled his way inside from the left, firing a deflected effort wide of goal, before Michael Bell came agonisingly close to converting his cross, the volleyed strike cannoning off the crossbar.
Yet just as a third goal looked to be on the cards, Albion pulled a goal back.
Midfielder David Backhouse managed to wriggle free in the box, dancing past his marker and lofting the ball over the stranded Ryan Beal.
The visitors, though rattled by the unexpected strike, were still in the ascendancy, and would have restored their advantage through Dormand were it not for the impressive Robinson.
The keeper smothered well at a corner to deny the striker, before parrying away a vicious strike from close range
At the other end, David Shickle headed a rare chance wide for Ryton, who were fortunate to head into the break just one goal behind.
Roy Gordon came off the bench to replace the injured Dummett at half-time and made an almost instant impact.
Hudson received the substitute’s pass down the flank and spun his man, cut inside and curled the ball accurately into the bottom corner.
Ryton came forward again on a fast deteriorating pitch, but Allotment rarely looked like conceding.
Michael Pooley’s attempted cross from a set-piece veered towards goal, forcing Beal to tip the ball away, before Adam Chrostowski headed wide for John Wilson’s charges.
However, Albion were handed a way back into the match by an uncharacteristic goalkeeping error.
Beal spilled what seemed to be a routine catch and failed to gather the following rebound, allowing Francesco Di Pietro to tap home.
The deficit may have been reduced once more, but Allotment were in no mood to surrender two points, and went looking for a fourth.
Dormand was again denied by Robinson, the goalie this time using his legs to block a goalbound effort, and an in-swinging corner from Gordon was cleared off the line by goalscorer Backhouse.
The killer goal came with ten minutes left on the clock.
A trademark Dormand long throw was flicked back into the box by Paul Stoneman, and Michael Bell rose before Robinson to apply the headed finish.
It was the midfielder’s second winning goal in as many games, and was no less than Allotment deserved.
The win elevates West Allotment up to fourth place with games in hand on two of the three teams above them.
Of greater significance was the performance – another resilient showing in less than ideal circumstances, with Hudson, Stephen Little and captain Dunn all impressing for the high-flying visitors.