WEST Allotment returned to winning ways in the Brooks Mileson Memorial Cup First Round but had to wait for Sean Reid’s injury time penalty to secure their passage into the next round.
Chester-Le-Street substitute Kristian Wilkinson looked to have sent the game into extra time when he cancelled out David Dormand’s opening effort but Reid’s late spot-kick ensured Allotment of a place in the Second Round at home to Billingham Town.
Paul Stoneman decided to name an experimental starting eleven, with no less than seven changes made from the side that lost to Whitehaven at the weekend.
Captain Ian Dunn and player of the month Marc Dummett were both rested while top goal scorer Dean Lee started on the bench alongside first team regulars Sean Reid, Michael Bell and John Pendlebury.
The changes allowed a number of fringe players to make an impression, including latest re-signing Chris Douglas.
In a drab opening 45 minutes, neither side was able to put their mark on the game as direct approaches from both sides were easily dealt with by each defence.
On the rare occasion when defences were undone both keepers were still alert. Celtic’s Ryan Beal added to his impressive résumé of saves by tipping over Michael Hepplewhite’s curling effort.
At the other end Matthew Crook had to react quickly when Stoneman rose highest to send a header towards the top corner, getting two hands to the ball to push it away.
If the first half was lethargic, the second saw Chester-Le-Street try to inject some life into the tie, hitting the upright twice within 20 minutes through Calvin Gowland then Hepplewhite.
The two chances for the visitors jolted Allotment into life and Stoneman reverted back to a more familiar formation to accommodate for the introduction of Sean Reid and Dean Lee from the bench.
The change paid instant dividends as Allotment took the lead through Dormand’s first goal for the club. Released down the left channel, Dormand made light work of skipping past Matthew Smith and picking his spot from the edge of the six-yard box.
Dormand was replaced by Michael Bell shortly after and the three substitutes combined to produce the best move of the game.
Bell threaded the ball through for Lee to break in behind the defence and his ball across the face of goal was inch perfect for Reid to slide home, only for Crook to produce the most courageous of blocks.
West Allotment looked to have paid the penalty for the miss when Chester-Le-Street’s own substitute Kristian Wilkinson looked to have forced extra-time, firing from the edge of the area after a number of defensive blocks.
Both teams had chances to win it within the final ten minutes but in the end the penalty decision that decided the tie was a fairly dubious award.
Reid indulged in a couple of step overs in the area, hitting the deck when an unwitting defender tentatively stuck out a leg.
While the referee may have been looking to make amends for his refusal to penalise Chester-Le-Street for the more obvious foul on Lee moments earlier both sides expressed surprise at the decision.
Reid dusted himself down and sent Crook the wrong way to book Allotment’s place in the Second Round.
The win comes as welcome respite for an Allotment side that has struggled with results of late and a league victory against Washington this weekend will go a long way to repairing the damage caused by the recent slump.