WEST Allotment Celtic were made to rue costly individual errors as they went down 5-3 to promotion chasers Jarrow Roofing at Whitley Park.
Four early preventable goals in the first half all but consigned Allotment to their second defeat on the bounce, and a fifth just after the restart threatened to prompt a rout, but a gutsy fightback from the hosts salvaged some pride, if not a precious point.
After last Saturday’s defeat at Birtley – Allotment’s first in 2013 – player-manager Paul Stoneman restored a number of first-team mainstays to the starting line-up. Regulars Stephen Little and David Dormand returned to their respective positions, with David Henderson and Kallum McGlen also earning starting berths in midfield.
With promotion to division one firmly in their sights, Jarrow Roofing would settle for nothing less than all three points, and made their intentions known within the first five minutes. A floated cross into the area caught out Celtic’s Ryan Beal, allowing Anthony Myers to nod the ball over the stranded keeper.
Stunned by the early lapse, Allotment looked to hit back instantly. Sean Reid, one of the few to impress in last week’s defeat, fed Dormand, but the forward’s tame effort was easily gathered low down by keeper Josh Carmichael.
The hosts did not have to wait long to restore parity. Minutes later, a sumptuous cross-field ball from Marc Dummett travelled over 30 yards, evading the Jarrow back line and finding Reid, who stroked a half-volley beyond the reach of Carmichael.
Richie McLoughlin’s Roofers looked dangerously quick on the break, and a rapid counterattacking move soon restored the visitors’ lead. Rangy forward Liam McBryde surged forward from halfway, turned inside Stoneman, and fired an unstoppable effort into the top corner from 20 yards out.
Once again, Allotment came back at Jarrow, but a Dormand lob and a low Lee effort did not unduly trouble Carmichael. At the other end, another goalkeeping error gifted the away side their third goal of the afternoon.
Beal and Stephen Little clashed when going up for the same cross, and the ball fell to Myers, who, after escaping the attentions of the Celtic goalie, fired home on the turn.
Beal’s troubled afternoon could have ended far earlier than planned, as the keeper seemed to bring down a Jarrow attacker when stretching for the ball, but the referee ignored calls for a penalty.
The official did not hesitate to point at the spot moments later, as Dummett clipped speed merchant Jordan Lartey in the area.
Myers dispatched the penalty, completing an impressive first-half hat-trick and leaving Allotment in a state of shock and disarray at half-time.
After some undoubtedly strong words in the dressing room, Celtic looked to get back into the tie as early as possible – but a fifth goal put paid to any hopes of a revival. Little conceded a free-kick on the edge of the area, and McBryde once again found the top corner with another pinpoint strike.
Jarrow could well have sought to extend their arguably exaggerated lead, but Allotment redoubled their efforts, and, led by the energetic Reid, set about staging an unlikely comeback.
Dormand smashed a volley over the crossbar, whilst at the other end, a typically well-timed Stoneman challenge denied Dan Smart a surefire sixth goal.
Both Michael Bell and Ian Dunn saw shots blocked mere yards from the line as Allotment peppered the Roofers’ goal in an attempt to restore some pride.
The hosts belatedly got their consolatory reward via a fantastic Dormand strike. The former Morpeth man anticipated a Reid throw-in perfectly, turning his man and hitting a dipping volley over the helpless head of Carmichael and into the top corner.
Having dominated for prolonged periods in the second half, Allotment even threatened to take something from the game. With five minutes left on the clock, the impressive Reid beat the offside trap, cut inside and rifled a shot into the back of the net to give Celtic faint hope of an unlikely point.
As Allotment poured forward, Jarrow countered effectively, and should have made the game safe in its dying minutes. David Carson pulled a shot well wide when one-on-one with Beal, before the keeper deflected a goalbound Smart effort past his far post.
The scoreline ultimately reflected Jarrow’s efficiency going forward, but costly mistakes at the back allowed the visitors to run up an unassailable lead in an otherwise close encounter.
The hosts deserve some credit for their fightback, led by the mercurial Reid, but the second half performance will be scant consolation for Allotment after losing ground to the chasing pack in the division.
West Allotment will hope to come out of the blocks a little quicker when they turn their attentions to the visit of local rivals North Shields to Whitley Park on Good Friday. Kick-off is noon.