Marske Utd 4
West Allotment Celtic 1
West Allotment Celtic endured a less-than-jolly trip to the seaside on Saturday afternoon, wher e three goals in five first-half minutes put Marske United on their way to a comfortable 4-1 victory.
The prolific hosts had the game sewn up by half-time, putting four goals past an unwitting Allotment defence, and, though the second half was a considerable improvement, the Tynesiders were left to bemoan sloppy defensive errors in the opening period.
A four-goal onslaught looked highly unlikely in the opening 20 minutes as Allotment dominated in the early stages, stringing together some eye-catching moves and retaining possession well against one of the division’s frontrunners. Sean Reid was at the heart of much of the good work, and almost opened the scoring himself after 14 minutes.
The breakthrough came directly from a set-piece. Josh McDonald whipped a corner into the six-yard box, where Jamie Owens – well clear of marker John Pendlebury – ghosted in to glance the ball home unmarked.
Reeling from the soft nature of the goal, Allotment found themselves two down just two minutes later, Owens once again making his mark. This time, it was Pendlebury’s counterpart Stoneman who was at fault, failing to clear his lines and allowing Danny Brunskill to recover possession towards the byline. The veteran forward knocked a lofted ball into the area, duly met by the head of Owens.
Celtic were in freefall, but Owens wasn’t quite done yet, completing the rapid fire hat-trick in emphatic fashion. The former Shildon hitman collected the ball on the left flank and drove inside Pendlebury, evading a desperate Stoneman challenge on the edge of the box and slamming beyond the exposed Mullen.
The fourth came on the stroke of half-time, arguably assisted by more suspect defending. The back four were slow to get out from a corner, and the flag remained down when Brunskill lifted the ball back over the top. Centre-half Adam Wheatley ultimately got the better of Mullen in the air, nodding into an empty net to complete a first-half rout.
After some stern words at half-time, Allotment came out fighting in the second period, enjoying the lion’s share of possession. Despite the game being all but lost at the interval, the away side continued to work, playing some of the afternoon’s best football against a relaxed Marske outfit.
A consolation was the least that Allotment deserved for their spirited – though ultimately doomed – second half showing. Celtic got their just desserts 15 minutes from time, Reid himself getting on the scoresheet with a trademark free-kick that took a slight deflection on its way into the far corner.
Sub Reece Kelly could have flattered the hosts with a fifth late on, Mullen blocking the dangerous winger with his legs, and further efforts from Reid and Marc Allen at the other end did not threaten to reduce arrears further.
West Allotment were left to rue that kamikaze spell of defending midway through the first half, but can take positives from the performance and character displayed when facing the inevitable defeat.