Celtic cruise past Chester-le-Street

WEST Allotment Celtic comfortably overcame fellow mid-table side Chester-le-Street Town by three goals to one on Saturday afternoon. The hosts deservedly led at the interval, courtesy of a well-taken brace from David Dormand, and a second half strike from winger Tony Lancaster sealed the win for West Allotment.

Following a dominant 3-0 win at Esh Winning on Wednesday, player-manager Paul Stoneman freshened up the side, reinstating himself at centre-back and pushing able deputy Sean Reid back into his customary attacking role. Aiden Ames, Marc Dummett and Tony Lancaster all returned to the starting 11, having warmed the bench on County Durham in midweek.

Five points separated the two sides in division two table, but the game was not as tight as the table might have suggested prior to kick-off. The home side were superior from the outset, controlling the flow of the game from the back and looking comfortable in possession.

Dean Lee and Marc Dummett both saw efforts drift wide in the opening minutes, but Cestrians’ goalkeeper Matthew Crook was soon called into action, parrying away Sean Reid’s header from point blank range to keep the scores level. Chris Douglas’ pinpoint set-pieces were constantly finding their targets, and another trademark corner was headed wide by Stoneman as Allotment threatened to break the deadlock.

The hosts did not have to wait long to get the goal that their early play warranted. David Henderson worked his way into a shooting position from range, and Crook could only deflect his effort into the path of Dormand, who made no mistake with the rebound.

Lee flashed another attempt wide of goal soon after, but the visitors responded in earnest, spurning two chances to level the score. Craig Mickle gained half a yard on his marker and strode into the area, but, with only Ames to beat, the number nine powered his strike harmlessly over the bar. Buoyed by a spell of possession, the Cestrians pressed forward, and would have pegged the hosts back were it not for Allotment’s trusty custodian. Marauding full-back Adam Smith found space on the left, but his firm strike was pushed behind for a corner by Ames in the Celtic goal.

The resurgence, however, was brief, and Allotment dealt their opponents a crushing blow on the stroke of half-time. A dangerous Douglas free-kick found Dormand at the back post, and the striker’s header looped beyond the despairing Crook to double his – and Celtic’s – tally.

Stoneman’s men started the second half as brightly as they had ended the first, as Sean Reid went close with two well-struck curling efforts. The forward played an instrumental role in the build-up for Celtic’s third goal, winning an important flick-on in Chester-le-Street’s half. The ball fell promisingly to potential hat-trick hero Dormand, but the striker unselfishly laid the ball into the path of Lancaster. The winger finished with aplomb to give Allotment an ultimately unassailable lead with 30 minutes left to play.

Allotment continued to create chances, and Dean Lee could have initiated a rout as he sped into the area, but the winger’s eventual shot was cleared from underneath the visitors’ crossbar. Instead, Chester-le-Street hauled their way back into the match, courtesy of a fine long-range strike from Michael Pattison.

The complexion of the game could have changed in a frantic two minutes. First, Dean Lee looked odds-on to score from close range, only to be denied by Crook, and Dormand smashed the awkwardly bouncing rebound over the bar from six yards out. At the other end, the otherwise impressive Douglas sold his keeper short with a poor back pass, but Ames made two brave stops in quick succession to deny Chester-le-Street a route back into the match.

However, one curling Stephen Buzzeo effort aside, it was to be the last time that Colin Wake’s side truly threatened to pull off an unlikely comeback. Conversely, Allotment could have extended their advantage late on, with Lee once again the centre of attention. Allotment’s top scorer sought to add to his 18 goals, and was presented with a fantastic chance to do so, racing into a one-on-one situation with Crook. The winger was caught as he rounded the keeper, but the referee refused to award the spot-kick. Lee almost turned provider, but Reid could not convert his square ball across the box, and the winger’s unfortunate day in front of goal was compounded by a header that floated agonisingly wide of the post.

West Allotment player-manager Paul Stoneman was pleased with the victory, if not the performance over the course of the 90 minutes. “I’m over the moon with three points. I was pleased with the first half, but the second half was poor, and I was disappointed not to keep a clean sheet. But it’s a good sign that we’re disappointed to win the game 3-1.”

With another convincing win, Celtic stretched their unbeaten run to six games, and will need to produce another assured performance when they travel to local rivals North Shields on Wednesday night.