15 FEBRUARY 2020

Crook Town became the first team to complete a league “double” over Allotment this season, as they added a 4-2 win to the 4-0 thumping handed out at Millfield in September. Whilst that earlier win was fully deserved, the encounter at Druid Park was a much closer encounter and perhaps a draw would have been a fairer result. That said, far too many home players fell way below their usual high standards and, against a very useful Crook outfit, that was a recipe for disaster.

Although Storm Dennis kindly delayed its main attack until after the game finished, its initial warnings were to have a definite impact on the match. Not least in the decisive sixty seconds on which the match swung. That occurred with around twelve minutes to go as, with the score level at 2-2, Matty Hayton was set clear in the box with the type of opportunity he normally buries without a second thought. On this occasion he delayed a moment too long and his shot was blocked. Still cursing this lost chance, Celtic supporters were soon even more unhappy as the visitors broke down their left. There didn’t seem much on as Dan Maddison scampered down the flank, even less so when he shanked his attempted cross. However, the unexpected direction of the ball, combined with the gusting wind, caught out Finn Hodgson and he could only stand rooted in horror as the ball sailed over his head and plopped into the net.

Three minutes later, with Celtic apparently in a 1-1-8 formation, the ball was booted forward by the visitors and substitute Daniel Kent latched on to it with a clear run on goal. Blessed with a build that suggests he is never going to be described as scrawny or having whippet-like pace, Kent showed he can certainly finish as he steadied himself and crashed the ball into the roof of the net beyond the helpless Hodgson. That was the killer as Celtic never really threatened to retrieve the situation and Crook duly became the third side in a row to take all three points home from Druid Park.

Such a scenario looked unlikely after a frantic opening twenty minutes in which Celtic turned around a   1-0 deficit and went on to look reasonably assured. Crook started well, with Christian Holliday having free rein down the Allotment right flank and he was only denied by the legs of Hodgson as early as the second minute. Holliday was instrumental in the opening goal too as he took advantage of yet more space to set up Nathan Stephenson to drive the ball home with a low shot.

Allotment were level within a minute, Abu Salim receiving the ball on the left and weaving his way into the Crook penalty area before despatching a swerving shot beyond Makepeace in the visiting goal. Within another five minutes Allotment were ahead following an excellent move. Shane Jones shielded the ball well on the edge of the penalty area before feeding Luke Parkinson on the left and his low hard cross was met by the on-rushing Hayton to put Celtic ahead.

The game settled down after the frenetic scoring spell, although both sides put on a good show for the neutrals in the crowd, of which there were many due to the multiple postponements elsewhere. Then, with Celtic looking odds-on to go into the break ahead, Crook conjured up an equaliser right on the whistle. Left-back Tom Gavin, the visiting captain, was well outside the box when he unleashed a shot that somehow ended up in the top corner of the Allotment goal. Deflection off Gil Chapim’s boot, the wind playing tricks or just one of those once-in-a-blue-moon shots? Whatever, it sent the sides in level and set up the finale to come later.

For the first time this season, Allotment are starting to look over their shoulders as Crook and Redcar lurk menacingly. That said, if anyone had suggested that, in mid-February, Celtic would be seven points clear at the top of the table with a game in hand then who would have turned that down? So, it’s all in the team’s hands……..but they cannot afford too many stuttering performances like this one.

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

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