West Allotment force FA Vase replay against Nelson

West Allotment  captain Ian Dunn closing down Nelson counterpart Robert Grimes in their FA Vase tie. Picture by Graeme Jackson.
West Allotment captain Ian Dunn closing down Nelson counterpart Robert Grimes in their FA Vase tie. Picture by Graeme Jackson.

West Allotment Celtic face a Tuesday night trip to Lancashire having held Nelson to a 1-1 draw at Whitley Park in the FA Vase second qualifying round on Saturday.

Like Allotment, the Admirals had spent three years at level ten prior to promotion.

Their start to life in the North West Counties premier division has been markedly better than that of their Northern League opponents, having won five of their last six games.

They looked to continue in that rich vein of form early on, with ex-Newcastle United trainee Peter Wright, back on his old stamping ground, lashing over the bar, before winger Ed O’Neill’s wicked attempt from the right did not quite bend in time to find the bottom corner.

Wright fired another wild attempt well wide in a positive 15 minutes for the visitors, but Allotment slowly grew into the game and would have the lion’s share of the half’s chances thereafter.

Paul Stoneman’s headed flick from a throw-in sparked a scramble in the six-yard box, and, after Mark Fenwick saw a poke blocked, it broke in front of Tony Lancaster who crashed an overzealous shot high above Ben Woodhead’s goal.

David Dormand was next to see an effort loop over the bar, the opportunity for a header borne of good work down the right by Michael Bell, but another aerial attempt did indeed hit the target – only for the linesman to decide otherwise.

Another looping header from a Marc Dummett corner looked to have crossed the line, with spectators attesting to daylight between ball and post, but the official disagreed, denying the hosts a clear opener.

Nelson’s Callum Mahoney, on for the concussed Jake Lloyd, was the one consistent bright spark for the men in blue.

His pace and directness posed problems for Dummett throughout, and two of his tempting low deliveries from the right could have been converted, had the forwards been on the young winger’s wavelength.

Fenwick was also proving to be a handful at the other end, almost finding space in the box to bag the opener, and coming to within a few inches of doing so minutes later, a rifled effort ricocheting off the stanchion.

Sean Reid and Dormand both sent headers over, but it remained goalless at the break.

Bell almost put Allotment in front as soon as the game resumed, his header from a pinpoint John Pendlebury cross tipped behind by Woodhead, but the green and whites conceded their customary post-interval goal soon after.

Captain Robert Grimes had been a constant driving force for Mark Fell’s men, and he made no mistake when fed through on goal, beating the wayward Ryan Beal from the angle of the area.

Daniel Mahoney should have doubled the advantage, skewing over a free shot when played in by O’Neill, but Allotment weathered the brief storm, fighting back in a scrappy second half.

With time running out and chances far from plentiful, Wright came close to wrapping it up, his 20-yard drive ramping off the near post and away from danger.

With 15 left on the clock, Allotment needed a goal by hook or by crook, and they got one through their talisman.

Regularly an attacking midfielder, Reid was Celtic’s top scorer last season, but has been tasked with filling in alongside Michael Hall at the back for the past three games.

He was pushed back into the attack when Allotment rolled the dice, and showed all of his predatory instincts in drawing his side level, touching past Woodhead at the back post.

It once again became anyone’s game, Mahoney and Grimes failing to test Beal when well placed to do so, before Woodhead denied Reid a second down the park. Nelson should have nicked it at the death, first through Wright and then Mahoney.

The forward raced through on goal with two minutes remaining, but Beal did just enough to prevent the 32-year-old from steering in.

The keeper could have done nothing about Mahoney’s true strike from 25 yards, but the post once again came to his rescue in injury time.

It was the home stopper who was the busier of the two as Allotment, having worked so hard to get back into the game, tired in extra time.

Beal pushed respective strikes and crosses from sub Mahoney behind for corners, and Wright once again fired off target.

Reid was still lively, forcing another save from Woodhead, but as the tie entered its final 15, it was the visitors’ to lose.

Pendlebury’s defensive heroics briefly kept Nelson at bay, but another introduction in Jonny Hession should have sent the Blues through.

One-on-one with Beal, the midfielder looked to have slotted it into the far corner – only for the ball to bobble past the wrong side of the post, much to the supporters’ relief.

There was still time for one more opportunity to win it outright, and Hession almost redeemed himself with the game-winning pass to an unmarked Wright.

However, it was Beal who would be the hero on the day, racing out to palm away a goalbound effort, compounding the striker’s miserable afternoon – and, more importantly, keeping Allotment in the Vase draw.