SHILDON   4     WAC  1


10 MARCH 2020

Once more, the quarter-final stage of the League Cup proved to be an insurmountable barrier for Allotment as they succumbed to high-flying Shildon on a chilly, breezy night in County Durham. A rejigged Celtic line-up started well against a full-strength Shildon outfit but both sides struggled to keep their feet on a pitch possessing several pockets of ankle-deep mud. With the clarts, the Escher-like layout of the field of play and both teams unable to pass accurately, it was little wonder that the opening twenty minutes were pattern-free and saw the ball regularly out of play. Shildon did edge the possession stats and were creating a menace down the flanks but Allotment posed a threat too, with one fine Mackenzie Heaney run ending with a rasping shot that flew inches over the crossbar.

On twenty-five minutes, the deadlock was broken as, not for the first time, the ball was allowed to travel unimpeded across the Allotment penalty area. This time it reached Michael Sweet and the home striker had a simple task in ramming his close-range shot beyond the helpless Finn Hodgson. With Jake Forster putting in a sterling performance in midfield, Shane Jones having his best game for some time and Matty Hayton, as ever, harassing the home defence, the setback didn’t look insurmountable. However, that scenario changed in the seven minutes before the interval as Celtic twice shot themselves in the foot. Firstly, the 38th minute saw another home attack end with makeshift central defender Michael Trodd head down an attempted clearance straight into the path of Zak Atkinson, who promptly smashed the ball home from six yards on the half-volley. More defensive dithering allowed the prolific Billy Greulich-Smith to rifle a shot past the exposed Hodgson right on the half-time whistle.

A two-goal deficit was going to be extremely difficult to retrieve against a club likely to be playing at Step 4 next season, three made it bordering on the impossible. Still, Allotment gave it a real go after the interval. The home side, perhaps relaxing a little too much, were given a thorough examination by a Celtic line-up reinforced by the introduction of Abu Salim, Mikel Thompson and Gil Chapim in a revised formation that saw Kurt Burns switch from left-back into the centre and Callum Carney pushed further forward. The enterprise was rewarded in the 53rd minute when a fine turn and finish by Jones reduced the deficit.

The visitors then dominated the game, displaying some delightful passing and skilful football as Shildon were reduced to very sporadic counter-attacks. Sadly, a second goal just wouldn’t come for Celtic despite the pressure applied. The post was hit, Hayton blazed an effort over the bar and the ball regularly bobbled around the home box but it just wouldn’t fall kindly for the visitors. Any residual doubts about the result evaporated five minutes from time when a rare Shildon attack saw an over-committed Celtic unable to prevent Sweet claiming his second goal of the night with a clinical flick into the roof of the net following a cross from the left wing. So ends a one Cup adventure for the season but if Celtic can reproduce their second-half form against Division 2 opponents then a league title and EA Cup double is surely well within their grasp.

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

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