West Allotment Celtic snatched a hard-fought point at home to Consett on Saturday afternoon with Sean Reid’s late finish earning his side a deserved point in an eventful encounter at Whitley Park.
Consett had produced one of the results of their season in the reverse at Belle View, romping to a comprehensive 7-0 victory in September.
But there was to be no repeat of such goalscoring feats prior to Christmas as Allotment matched their County Durham opponents throughout the 90 minutes.
The visitors boasted the dangerous partnership of Michael Mackay and Luke Sullivan in attack, and it was the latter who proved a handful throughout the game, stating his intentions with a header over the top in the opening minutes from Chris Moore’s cross.
The wideman was Consett’s most dangerous outlet down the right, but his excursions forward from wing-back afforded Liam Hudson time and space to operate on the left for Allotment, the Steelmen defence required to clear his dangerous square balls on more than one occasion.
Michael Mackay was the first to test Allotment’s Ryan Beal, the free header drawing an easy save from the stopper, but Michael Bell was denied the opportunity to call Barry Poskett into action at the other end by a timely block.
It would not be long before his second chance arrived, as Kallum McGlen picked him out in the box from the resulting corner. Ever effective in the air, Bell got the better of Poskett and his marker to give Allotment the early lead.
That advantage could have been doubled five minutes later when Hudson once again found himself free in space on the wing, and another drilled low ball across goal was met by Consett’s own Daniel Madden – but the captain almost smashed the attempted first-time clearance into his own net, saved only by the woodwork.
Consett continued to look dangerous when moving forward, a 25-yard drive from Josh Gray expertly tipped over by Beal just shy of the half hour mark.
However, the keeper was arguably at fault for the leveller moments later, failing to convincingly claim a corner that ultimately fell to Carl Piecha, the centre half hammering in from close range at the second time of asking.
Kenny Lindoe’s men looked likely to complete the turnaround before the half-time whistle, and would have done had Sullivan’s fine header not struck the post.
Kallum McGlen fired an inadvertent warning shot across Consett’s bow with a high, looping free kick that almost dipped into Poskett’s top corner, but the away side had the momentum.
Mackay managed to wriggle his way into a shooting position within the area, but Beal stayed strong to push away the goalbound effort, before Sullivan missed the chance of the half, placing a free shot from inside the area a yard wide of the far post.
Remarkably, the woodwork was hit a third time on the stroke of half-time, one of Reid’s trademark free kicks dipping over the wall but clipping the outside of the post.
The interval saw a change from Allotment, flu-ridden full back Jake Kallis replaced by Mark Fenwick, with goalscorer Bell now deputising at left back.
His first task would be to keep the lively Moore in check. The former Whitley Bay winger got the better of his man and whipped in a sublime cross for Mackay, but the out-of-sorts striker miscued his volley from 12 yards, and was replaced soon after by Adam Nicholls.
The first of the game’s pivotal decisions came on the 55th minute when Fenwick raced onto a fine through ball towards goal only to be impeded by a Consett defender. The foul continued well into the area, the referee’s advantage allowing Fenwick to get a shot away, but when it missed the target, the official’s whistle sounded. To the disbelief of Celtic players and supporters, a free kick was signalled to be taken on the very edge of the area, the last man seeing yellow rather than the expected red.
The better chances came Consett’s way thereafter, the hosts indebted to Liam Anderson for keeping the scores level.
Substitute Nicholls raced after a wide through ball, beating Beal to it and shooting towards goal from a narrow angle, but the centre half was there to clear on the line.
Nevertheless, the Celtic stopper did keep them in it soon after, a fine low dive to his right denying Sullivan once again.
However, the 24-year-old attacker would finally win the duel between the two. Pickpocketing the Celtic midfield, Sullivan surged past two challenges en route to the edge of the box before slamming low drive into Beal’s bottom corner.
Having put their five-match losing streak behind them against Newcastle Benfield, Celtic were in no mood to go away empty-handed.
With ten minutes remaining, Reid more than matched Sullivan’s run and strike, the untouchable playmaker powering 40 yards downfield before sending Poskett the wrong way.
With little time left for a winner either way, the game turned in Celtic’s favour when Aristote Guerin-Lokonga, having stepped off the bench late in the second half, received his marching orders for striking Allotment player-manager Paul Stoneman.
The visitors could even have been down to nine in the game’s final throes, a late two-footed challenge on Anderson punished only with a caution.
Both sides had a chance apiece to win the tie outright.
Despite the one-man disadvantage, Consett managed to break at pace and with numbers. Three red shirts were waiting to receive the pass on the left, but a magnificent last-ditch tackle from Stoneman nullified the threat.
Alternatively, Celtic could have taken all three points themselves, courtesy of Reid’s tireless graft.
The goalscorer pounded after a loose ball to keep it in play by the touchline, supplying the neat through ball to Hudson thereafter. Allotment’s winger, an intermittent threat throughout, fired a shot goalwards, but Northern League veteran Poskett got two hands to it to guarantee a share of the spoils.