West Allotment well beaten in battle of Celtics

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Two weeks after a successful trip to Cumbria to beat Penrith, the team in green and white hoops once again ran out comfortable winners on Saturday.

But on this occasion West Allotment were playing in red and black, with home side Celtic Nation kitted out in the hoops.

Thus ended the visitors’ fine start to the campaign after a performance that emulated the Cumbrian weather – bright spells snuffed out by too many wet showers.

Celtic Nation have undergone trials and tribulations in recent seasons, with the headache of serious ground problems soothed by the sugary balm of financial support from a multi-millionaire backer.

That particular medicine has now been put back in the bottle, leaving the former Gillford Park outfit with a fine stadium and pitch but a team that is having to be rebuilt on a scale that is more bootlace than gold lace.

The confused atmosphere was illustrated by the extended pleas for support via the Tannoy before the kick-off, at half-time and then, on a Churchillian scale, at the end of the match.

Appropriately, the game started with a misplaced pass from each side and it would have been a brave person to put a penny piece on the eventual outcome.

The visitors are suffering from a general malaise affecting the centre of the defence, with player-manager Paul Stoneman the latest to be ruled out, to be replaced by the returning Glenn Ford, a recent victim of the same curse.

The need to put John Pendlebury in the centre meant that Graeme Cairns had to continue at right back, where he has looked less than comfortable to date.

Worryingly, his direct opponent was Dean Douglas, a previous star of the Allotment team and subsequently a true pest when in the colours of Whitley Bay or Penrith.

Sensibly, Allotment decided to keep the home side from testing their defence in the opening stages and Ian Dunn went close when heading just over following a Marc Dummett free kick.

It took until the tenth minute for Nation to test Ryan Beal, but Roberts’ low shot was pouched with ease.

Allotment responded well when Liam Anderson drove down the centre of the pitch and picked out Liam Hudson, only for the forward to delay his cut back to Sean Reid, whose belated shot was deflected to safety.

That was to be the last meaningful effort of the opening half from the visitors as the hosts stepped up the pressure.

That pressure brought a reward on 25 minutes, although it was a self-inflicted wound by Allotment as Beal and Cairns dithered over clearing a routine ball launched into their zone; the delay was leapt on by Douglas, who stole the ball and rolled it into the gaping goal.

The diminutive winger was now causing mayhem and Cairns was left to commit a series of fouls that led to an inevitable yellow card, although he was within his rights to ask for a little more support.

Cummersky had already had a header headed off the line by Ford and he was emulated by team-mate Roberts in the 40th minute when Pendlebury hooked the ball clear with inches to spare.

The main aim now was to reach half-time just one goal down as Anderson was palpably struggling with injury too and Cairns, a red card walking, was hauled off and replaced by Kallum McGlen.

Sanctuary was in view when Douglas produced yet more trickery and his efforts set up Roberts to fire home despite a valiant effort by Pendlebury to produce a block.

Celtic Nation had squandered a 2-0 lead at home in midweek but any hopes of Allotment repeating the story was ended by a disastrous opening ten minutes to the second period.

Firstly, Bannon slapped home a long-range effort and Beal’s horrible afternoon got worse in the 55th minute when he failed to keep his hand on the ball as Roberts slid in and the ball squirted free, with the forward fastest to recover and slam the ball into the empty net from close range.

Disjointed and increasingly ill-disciplined, there appeared a real risk of a ragged Allotment side slumping to an embarrassing scoreline.

Yet, to their great credit, the visitors drew on their reserves and refused to throw in the towel.

The efforts garnered a goal in the 67th minute when Reid was played in and cleverly shielded the ball; the defender could not resist a little shove and the tall forward went down quicker than Bambi’s mother.

Unlike the unfortunate deer, the Allotment man did arise and duly slammed the spot-kick low to the opposite side of the goal tested by Casson.

The home keeper rode his luck, not least when he was beaten by a deft lob from substitute Mark Fenwick, only for the flag to go up for offside.

Just down from Hadrian’s Wall, Allotment hit a wall of their own and will welcome a week off to prepare for an important and intriguing FA Cup tie away to Knaresborough Town next weekend.

As the Tannoy man continued his seemingly endless spiel at full-time, the only thing he failed to emote was a cry for the footballing gods to leave Allotment’s centre backs alone.

That is out of the management team’s hands, of course, but they can work on eradicating some of the rather witless performances on display in Cumbria.

It has been an excellent start to the new season so the players are due to be cut some slack but, with the fixtures coming thick and fast, ‘slack’ is something that cannot be allowed to dangle about too long.

Allotment: Beal; Cairns (McGlen); Dummett; Ford; Pendlebury; Anderson (Below); Henderson;; Dunn; Dormand (Fenwick); Hudson; Reid. Subs not used: Chapman, Allen.