West Allotment Celtic ensured their Northern League division one survival with a thumping 6-2 victory over Bedlington Terriers on Saturday afternoon, with Liam Hudson netting an impressive hat-trick on the way.
Heading into their penultimate game of the season, Allotment occupied the last of the relegation berths on goal difference and knew that they would have to take at least a point from the remaining two fixtures whilst hoping Billingham Synthonia would slip up at Morpeth Town.
A positive result seemed less likely for Celtic after their 5-0 humbling against Durham City in midweek, but any early fears of a repeat performance were allayed by the hosts within 60 seconds.
A sweeping move from the left flank to the right saw Sean Reid play in Michael Bell, and he made no mistake with a fine low finish across goal.
With Reid back in the starting line-up and Hudson playing in the lone striker’s role for the first time this season, Allotment looked a completely different outfit, one which threatened to overrun the Terriers, who themselves had won just once in 2015.
Liam Davison’s soaring effort from range, attempting to capitalise on keeper Dan Mullen’s position away from his line, was their only chance of note in the opening 45 minutes.
Allotment, by contrast, looked entirely comfortable with and without possession, and deservedly doubled their lead on 16 minutes.
Ex-Celtic defender Stephen Little fouled Hudson 25 yards out and Reid kindled up the set-piece magic of old, beating Luc Glasper and the strong wind with a soaring strike from well outside the box.
The hosts were in full control, and captain Ian Dunn almost made it three soon after, his low shot from a corner beating Glasper but not Keelan Nellis, who hacked the ball away from danger.
This resurgent Allotment side was not to be denied before the half hour, and it was Hudson – unavailable for the previous three games – who took centre stage.
The forward collected Kallum McGlen’s gutsy flick before bullying his way through most of the Terriers back line, slotting beneath the exposed Glasper to remind the fans just what they had been missing.
His directness and physicality was causing the centre back pairing no end of trouble, three red shirts were required to keep him out again after good work from Henderson, but he owed both Tony Lancaster and Reid a debt of gratitude for his second goal five minutes before half-time.
The pair linked up wonderfully through the middle of the park, exchanging a neat one-two at pace, and though Reid’s shot was parried, Hudson was there to follow it in with the simplest of finishes, all but guaranteeing survival before the interval.
Bedlington did belatedly hit back when play resumed, starting the second half in similar fashion to Allotment in the first. Jordan Nellis let fly from 25 yards, catching Mullen by surprise, and though the keeper did get a firm hand on it, the ball looped into the net regardless.
A Terriers comeback still seemed unlikely, and it was rendered nigh impossible six minutes later as Hudson brought up his hat-trick with Allotment’s fifth of the game. Again, the rejuvenated Reid was the architect, drawing Glasper out of his goal before squaring to Hudson, who fired through the desperate covering defenders from close range.
Playing for little more than pride at this stage, Gary Innes’ men went close again, substitute Stephen Young rounding Mullen and shaping to shoot, only for covering centre-half John Pendlebury to head the goalbound effort off the line.
They did grab a second consolation six minutes later, Scott Thompson’s whipped cross into the corridor of uncertainty tucked away by Lee Scott.
However, Allotment deserved the final say on their big day, and substitute Mark Waite was on hand to provide it. The attacker has been sidelined with injury for much of Allotment’s campaign, but stepped off the bench to nod home a tremendous delivery from the faultless Lancaster on the right wing.
The emphatic and timely result, coupled with Synthonia’s 4-0 defeat at Craik Park, guaranteed Allotment’s safety with one game to spare.
West Auckland will be the final team to visit Whitley Park this season, but the club can look forward to another year in the top flight thereafter.