Celtic’s survival hit by raiding Lawyers on a cold, bleak day

TOW Law had never taken so much as a point from their previous five visits to Blue Flames on league duty.

However, that sequence evaporated on another extremely dispiriting afternoon for Allotment.

With several relegation rivals not in action, it was an inviting opportunity to narrow the worrying four-point gap that currently separates Celtic from safety.

The Lawyers have blown hot and cold this season and are the level of opposition that Allotment will have to beat over the coming weeks if the drop to division two is to be avoided.

Yet, on a cold, grey, wet day the match proved to be equally bleak.

Both sets of players supplied plenty of energy but ran out of ideas as soon as the penalty area was reached.

There were plenty of thumping tackles and aggression on show, but what really jarred was a lack of invention.

The visitors’ Jonathan Hewitson was one player who rose above the mediocrity and his penetrating run on ten minutes set up Greg Halliday to fire in a shot that Chris Bannon did well to parry to safety.

At the other end of an increasingly lumpy pitch, Gareth McAlindon rolled a free kick to Marc Walton and the burly forward spun cleverly to rifle in a shot that was well held by Stephen Robinson in the visitors goal.

The remainder of the opening period settled down into a none-too-pretty slog, although Allotment perhaps should have gone ahead in the 23rd minute when pressure from Walton hurried Robinson into a weak clearance that fell to Lee Hamilton.

However, the forward could only scuff a powerless shot straight back into the grateful keeper’s arms.

By now, the Lawyers were only threatening from a series of dead-ball kicks but Bannon was rarely troubled unduly.

Apart from the final ten minutes, the second half was not too dissimilar from the opening 45 minutes.

The crucial difference was that the Lawyers somehow conjured two goals from nowhere to sink Allotment.

The first arrived in the 54th minute and was especially disappointing as it came from a corner that had been conceded following an outstanding goal-line clearance from a combination of Bannon and Hamilton.

Sadly, the relief was short-lived as Stephen Tobin strolled up to meet the corner and the Lawyers centre-half was allowed far too much time to head low into the net from within the six-yard box.

If that goal was poor defensively, the second in the 67th minute was even worse.

Tow Law player-manager, Ian Davison, launched a free kick into the home box from virtually the halfway line and the ball was allowed to travel unmolested straight to the head of Hewitson, who stooped to flick it over the exposed Bannon.

With Celtic desperately short of goals, the deficit always looked too big to address, and that is the way it panned out, although Allotment did apply a decent degree of pressure in the closing stages.

Yet, one of football’s oldest clichés is that struggling teams never get the breaks.

Cliché or not, it was most definitely the case here, as the ball simply would not drop for an Allotment forward to apply the finishing touch to a series of manic goalmouth scrambles.

Even when the ball did drop kindly, the Tow Law keeper was there to smother home hopes; not least when he somehow tipped a first-time volley from Paul Gardiner over the bar.

It was a stunning stop and ensured that Tow Law’s awful record at Whitley Park would be consigned to history.

As will Allotment’s cherished place in the top division unless results change for the better very soon.

Allotment: Bannon, Hughes (Evans), Pendlebury, Jackson, Scott, Buzzeo, Molloy (Gordon), McAlindon (Brooking), Hamilton, Walton, Gardiner. Subs not used: Dunn, Latimer.