West Allotment Celtic will end January on top of Division 2 of the Northern League. The team has a healthy lead over second-placed Redcar Athletic, with games in hand. If, as is believed to be the case, the top four clubs will be promoted at the end of the season, then Allotment’s position is even more comfortable as there is currently a fifteen-point gap back to Heaton Stannington in fifth place. Celtic have an imbalance of home and away matches, meaning a lot of travelling is to be done in the coming months; however, this doesn’t concern the players or management as the team perform just as effectively on the road as they do in Woolsington.
The team has scorched its way to a magnificent goal difference of +55 (the next best is +24) and is just 22 goals shy of reaching a century of goals in the league alone. That said, the players have shown that they can grind out a result too, as when winning 1-0 away to Willington on 18 January on a pitch with the texture and appearance of a bowl of Weetabix. That was only Willington’s second home defeat of the campaign so, with the ability to wins wars of attrition as well as blow opponents away, surely promotion is getting nearer by the week.
Allotment bowed out of the NFA Senior Cup when losing 2-1 away to North Shields on 22 January. An even first half saw both sides fail to convert promising openings but the Robins, flying high in the top tier, went ahead early in the second period. The lead lasted just three moments before Matty Hayton swept home the equaliser after breaking free of the home defence. The Robins then found an extra gear and pummelled Allotment’s goal, only to be thwarted by an inspired display from Finn Hodgson. Inevitably the pressure eventually told and Kyle Patton put Shields ahead again twelve minutes from time. Patton then spurned a hat-trick opportunity by blasting a penalty so high over the bar, the ball is probably still heading towards Howden! A valiant effort but Senior Cup glory will have to wait for another season.
Still, Celtic remain in the League Cup and Ernest Armstrong Memorial Trophy. The League Cup has never produced much joy for Allotment, with only two appearances in the quarter-finals, the last being in 2013. First division Seaham Red Star stand in the way of Celtic reaching the last eight for only the third time; the tie will take place at Druid Park on 29 January. Celtic have a much better record in the EA Trophy, having won it twice, and face a quarter-final tie away to Chester-le-Street on 04 February. So, there remains much optimism that some cup success can go alongside the fine work being done in the league.