Celtic kick off with big win at Alnwick Town

Marc Allen celebrating with his team-mates.
Marc Allen celebrating with his team-mates.

West Allotment Celtic enjoyed an ideal start to their Northern League campaign, comfortably defeating Alnwick Town 4-0 at St James Park.

Returning goalkeeper Chris Bannon joined last season’s steadfast line-up, with fellow new boy Lawrence McKenna starting on the bench ahead of Allotment’s latest tilt at promotion from division two of the Northern League.

However, the visitors could have found themselves behind from within seconds of kick-off.

A misjudged header from Glenn Ford gifted James Jackson an early one-on-one opportunity, only for the centre-forward to skew his effort horribly wide.

Eager to make the most of the near miss, Celtic took the initiative, with Sean Reid heading over from a corner and a teasing Dean Lee delivery calling Town keeper Daniel Mullen into action.

On the opposite flank, Liam Hudson found enough space to whip a dangerous cross into the box towards David Dormand, only to see it hooked away by centre-half Alex Makin.

Allotment continued to create problems in the air, and a deft Michael Bell flick dropped nicely for Dormand, who was unfortunate to see his sweetly struck volley zip over the angle of the crossbar.

Lee threatened again minutes later, drifting inside to meet a Reid cross, but Mullen was equal to it.

The pressure yielded the first goal in Celtic’s favour after 25 minutes.

Paul Stoneman headed a deep ball from Marc Dummett beyond the Alnwick back four towards the waiting Reid, who ignored the frivolous offside appeals to steer the ball into the bottom corner.

The hosts struggled to find their feet in the match, and often failed to support the solitary figure of Jackson in attack.

When he did find space in the final third, Allotment managed to get bodies behind the ball, forcing the forward to shoot tamely at Bannon.

At the other end, Celtic were still the livelier side.

Reid curled a free-kick wide of the far post, Hudson scooped an effort onto the roof of the net and Bell failed to hit the target, ensuring that the scoreline remained close going into half-time.

After the interval, it was one-way traffic in the visitors’ favour.

Lee was in the thick it again, firing over from the edge of the area following a corner, before being presented with another chance by relentless counterpart Hudson.

The latter latched onto a fine ball from Reid, and found Lee arriving at pace at the back post, but the diminutive winger blasted it beyond Mullen’s crossbar.

Allotment’s high pressure kept Alnwick on the back foot – and almost yielded a second goal.

Bell ran 40 yards to chase a seemingly hopeless long ball, only for the defender to falter.

The midfielder’s attempts to turn the ball home were frantically blocked, as were those of team-mate Dormand, before the former found space and fired over.

The stronger side belatedly doubled their lead from a routine set-piece. Chris Douglas’ whipped corner found Stoneman, who did well to turn the ball into the net whilst under pressure from Kevin Elliott.

The player-manager’s goal afforded Celtic enough breathing space to put on a second striker, with McKenna coming on for captain Dunn – and the debutant made the desired impact within minutes of his arrival.

A catastrophic mix-up between centre-half and goalkeeper allowed the striker to race onto a loose ball and tap it into the empty net.

Tensions had become frayed at St James Park after a legitimate aerial challenge from Bell bloodied Makin’s nose, whilst Alnwick midfielder Bryan Murray was fortunate to escape so much as a booking after a challenge on the impressive Douglas.

The heated atmosphere did not faze Allotment, who saw a fine McKenna strike contentiously ruled out for handball, before another substitute wrapped up the victory.

McKenna and Dormand’s attempts to convert McGlen’s square cross were hampered, but the ball broke to Marc Allen, who stroked it home with aplomb – putting Allotment top of the division two table in the process.

There was still time for more drama as Dormand chipped an effort wide of Mullen’s post, whilst Bannon was adjudged to have fouled an Alnwick attacker on the edge of the area, earning a yellow card in the process. However, the goalkeeper and his back four kept a comfortable clean sheet.

Excellent performances across the pitch afforded Allotment a dominant victory against their Northumberland opponents, with Hudson, Bell and Douglas just some of the players to impress.

Allotment will hope to build on the win – and their lead at the top of the table – on Wednesday night, when they travel to local rivals Heaton Stannington.