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29 JANUARY 2020



On a damp and breezy evening at Druid Park, Allotment made it to the quarter-finals of the League Cup for the first time since 2013. The competition has never been a source of much joy for Celtic and with the team still not quite firing on all cylinders since the disruption of Christmas and a series of postponements, Seaham must have sensed an opportunity to pounce.

The Star are struggling in the lower reaches of Division 1 but still have a good pool of talent in their side, which includes several Allotment old boys in the likes of Paul Gardiner, Chris Bannon, Sean McRoberts and Mark Waite. There would have been more but for the hamstring injuries currently side-lining Michael Chilton and David Henderson. It was the visitors who started the brighter and fashioned some half chances in the opening quarter of hour but failed to turn the positive start into a tangible reward.

That failing was punished in the 23rd minute when a slick move released Matty Hayton and he finishing superbly with a curling shot that Steavens had no chance of reaching. The irrepressible Hayton almost doubled the lead immediately when he met a fine cross and a goal looked certain until Steavens somehow blocked the header, possibly with his face. Hayton continued to torment the Star defence for the remainder of the half, his harrying and runs into space demonstrating his great eye and unstinting effort for the cause. Unusually, the only thing that was missing was his finishing as he missed two very presentable openings, one ending with the ball lodged high in the conifers behind the goal.

Within ten minutes of the second half, the game seemed over as Celtic raced into a three-goal lead. Michael Trodd was the beneficiary of some excellent link-up play by Abu Salim and Mikel Thompson, with the latter’s low cross asking to be buried by the lurking Trodd at the far post in the 49th minute. Trodd turned provider seven minutes later when his through ball set Salim away and he efficiently tucked the ball under the advancing Steavens for his 21st goal of the season.

Seemingly home, if not quite dry, a series of substitutions disrupted Celtic’s momentum, especially the removal of Hayton, albeit understandable given the games still to come. The Star thought they had pulled a goal back when a cross caused a mad scramble in the home box and the ball appeared to have crossed the line twice before interventions from Hodgson and Errington. Certainly, the visiting management team, not exactly Trappist monks throughout the game, let the Assistant Referee know that perhaps his eyesight needed sharpening, although the official responded in kind by saying that the ball “was nowhere near” crossing the line.

An escape, but the warning about dealing with crosses wasn’t learnt as a routine corner in the 66th minute saw the ball evade everyone in green and white and Allotment old boy Waite was adjudged to have got the final touch as the ball entered the net. The goal didn’t seem to inspire too much enthusiasm in the away ranks but Allotment became increasingly sloppy, with passing breaking down and Seaham having more possession. That possession produced a second goal with eight minutes to go as yet another cross, this time from McRoberts, was not cut out and substitute Morgan Dart was on hand to increase the home nerves to a new level of jangling.

The final moments of the game witnessed a strange to-and-fro momentum, with Seaham’s increasingly desperate efforts to get the ball into the box interspersed by time-consuming breaks forward by Allotment. Thanks to fine handling by Finn Hodgson and bodies-on-the-line defending, Seaham failed to find an equaliser and Celtic go through to a quarter-final draw populated with teams in the upper reaches of Division 1, Allotment the only remaining club from the second tier. Still, having already beaten Division 1 leaders, Stockton Town, on their own pitch in the competition, no-one will scare this fine bunch of Allotment players in what continues to be a memorable season.

Allotment: Hodgson; Thompson; Parkinson; Carney; Chapim; Errington; Walker; Trodd (Higgins); Hayton (Donaghey); Jones; Salim (Mendes-Corriea). Subs not used: Forster, Bates.

Seaham: Steavens; Hailes; Weldon; Richardson; Waite; Gillesphey (Myers); McRoberts; Gardiner; Wilson (Dart); Robinson; Coulson (Cahill-Taylor). Subs not used: Bannon, Tumilty.

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