West Allotment Celtic kept their recent unbeaten league run on track with a fine 4-0 win at Darlington Railway Athletic on Saturday.
Paul Stoneman’s men were in scintillating form in the first half, putting three goals past a strong RA side, before substitute David Dormand added a fourth as the game neared its end.
The visitors started in customary fashion, opening brightly and fashioning the game’s first half chances.
Sean Reid gave Darlo their first taste of what was to come, creating space for himself and forcing Matty Calvert to make his first save of the afternoon. Liam Hudson was next to go close.
The winger left opposing number Jimmy Muir trailing in his wake – a recurring theme throughout the day – before opting to shoot tamely wide instead of laying it off.
With Allotment in the ascendancy, Darlington RA struggled to match their opponents, but goalkeeper Chris Bannon was briefly called into action, having to be on his guard to tip a deflected effort around the post.
It was the only meaningful save that the keeper had to make for the remainder of the half, as Celtic began to turn on the style, with the explosive Hudson at the heart of it all.
He once again beat his man for pace down the right before crossing towards the waiting Dean Lee, whose shot from six yards flew beyond three covering defenders and the crossbar.
The winger soon atoned for the shocking miss by hitting the target the second time around, with his right-sided counterpart due much of the credit.
Hudson powered his way down the flank and whipped another tantalising ball into the area, where the 30-year-old bundled home with his body.
The winger appeared to hurt himself in scoring the game’s opening goal, but Allotment almost suffered a more serious blow moments later, as Ian Dunn went down awkwardly in his own third, but the captain was deemed fit to continue after receiving lengthy treatment.
Lee soon spurned another glorious chance, skewing another Hudson cross wide at the far post, before the latter took matters into his own hands.
This time it was Lawrence McKenna who did the hard work, hounding centre-half Nick Harrison out of possession and swinging in the ball into the path of Hudson, who nipped ahead of his marker and tapped past Calvert to double Celtic’s advantage.
Two ahead at the half hour mark, Allotment proceeded to grab another five minutes later. Chris Douglas’ hanging corner was headed back across goal by the untouchable Reid, and centre-half Stephen Little was there to nod it in on the line.
West Allotment comfortably took that three goal cushion into the break, and were wary of an unlikely Darlington comeback as they emerged for the second half.
There were flashes of the free-flowing football that had served Allotment well in the opening 45 minutes, but the visitors were still in control at Brinkburn Road.
A wayward Reid volley was one of Celtic’s few clear chances after the restart, as the Railwaymen tried to force their way back into the game.
Stephen Butterworth should have clawed the hosts back into the match, receiving the ball in space within the penalty area, but was expertly denied by the feet of Bannon, who did just enough to put the ball over the crossbar.
It was the best opportunity they could muster as the back four stood strong, with speculative efforts from Louis Whensley and Steve Allison failing to unduly trouble Allotment’s keeper.
Instead, Celtic regained the initiative, in part thanks to the introduction of fresh blood in the form of substitutions.
The most prominent introduction – that of David Dormand – proved to be the catalyst for a fourth goal. The striker capped off a fine move, powering McKenna’s pullback beyond Calvert’s reach into the top corner.
The two forwards both had half-chances to increase Celtic’s tally to five, as the impressive McKenna’s flicked header drifted straight into the keeper’s hands, before Dormand headed over another difficult chance.
However, Allotment were content with a four-goal victory and a clean sheet against one of the division’s top teams.