THREE first half goals consigned West Allotment Celtic to their seventh home defeat of the season as Tow Law Town grabbed all three points at Whitley Park.
The visitors came into Saturday’s encounter refreshed and eager after a fortnight free of football.
Conversely, the beleaguered hosts had played five fixtures in those two weeks, and the fixture-related discrepancies were all too evident as Allotment’s tired squad could not cope with a rejuvenated Tow Law side.
After a frustrating goal-less draw at Brandon United, Paul Stoneman did try to freshen up the first team as best he could, drafting Simon Wilthew, Chris Douglas, Marc Allen and Kallum McGlen back into the starting 11.
With Bob Rodgerson unavailable, young stopper Lee Wall made his debut between the sticks - becoming the seventh goalkeeper to feature for Allotment this season.
Clearly raring to go, the Lawyers took the initiative from the outset, setting up camp in and around Allotment’s penalty area.
The back four managed to scramble away a teasing Lewis Harrison cross, but the pressure soon told, though Tow Law’s opener was undoubtedly harsh on the hosts.
A bouncing ball in the box reared up and caught the unsuspecting Dean Lee on the arm, and, despite the winger’s lack of intention, the referee begrudgingly pointed to the spot.
Lawyers captain Scott Brassell duly converted, putting his side ahead in the 12th minute.
The unfortunate goal stunned Celtic, and the away side continued to press forward at will.
Robert Hurton almost capitalised on an untimely Wall slip, lobbing the ball high over the keeper from an acute angle, only for the covering Marc Dummett to nod it over from beneath his own crossbar.
From the resulting corner, the debutant keeper made amends in spectacular fashion, somehow keeping out Adam Robinson’s seemingly goalbound effort from five yards out.
However, there was little that the impressive Wall could do about Tow Law’s inevitable second goal.
Towering forward Dan Wilson expertly cut inside Dummett on the right hand side, curling a sumptuous effort into the furthest reaches of the far post.
Facing an uphill battle after just 20 minutes, Allotment’s cause was hindered further by an early injury.
Centre half Wilthew limped off holding his hip and was replaced prematurely by Stephen Little.
The hosts redoubled their efforts, but the end product was sorely lacking as Lee fired over one of Allotment’s few clear half-chances.
Stoneman’s charges scrapped their way back into the game – and the centre half played in an important part in the build-up
Indomitable in the air, the former Halifax stalwart powered a header back into the six-yard box and captain Ian Dunn was there to prod it across the line after Reid’s effort was saved.
Despite reducing arrears, Tow Law still looked confident in attack, and Wall had to be on his guard to pull down an attempted Scott Thompson lob.
The visitors wasted little time in reasserting their dominance, taking advantage of some poor defensive work to put daylight between the two sides.
The Lawyers broke at speed, stretching the Allotment back four towards the right flank. With the defence ball-watching, Tow Law switched play exquisitely towards the left towards the unmarked Luke Parkinson, and the former Allotment winger coolly slotted into the far corner.
Having failed to work Tow Law custodian Stephen Robinson in the first half, Allotment forced him into action within minutes of the restart, getting firm hands behind a powerful Sean Reid effort.
The visitors looked happy to sit deeper and protect their lead, with a well saved Brassell effort from range constituting the Lawyers’ one notable chance of the second half.
Instead, it was Allotment who were pouring forward, but the home side lacked that necessary cutting edge in the final third.
A Lee header fell straight into the hands of Robinson, who should have been called into action moments earlier to deny Liam Hudson, however, the forward snatched at his effort from inside the area, curling the ball harmlessly wide.
Two tenuous penalties were waved away by the referee as Allotment began to run out of ideas.
Even with Lancaster and Henderson introduced from the bench, Tow Law stood firm, blocking respective efforts from the latter and Reid, before hacking the ball off the line amidst a goalmouth scramble.
For all of Allotment’s second half pressure they could not come back a second time.
Tow Law fashioned a greater number of chances in the first half, and effectively shut up shop in the second, running out deserved winners.
On a day where few impressed, former Sheffield Wednesday keeper Wall stood out, looking assured in his first game for the club.
The result sees Tow Law creep to within four points of Allotment in the league, and all but puts paid to any remaining hope of a late push for promotion.
The embattled squad will have to regroup quickly as they travel the short distance to North Shields on Monday night.