So I was up in the North East for what should of been an FA Vase Quarter Final between Morpeth Town and Bristol Manor Farm. Unfortunately the pitch at Craik Park fell foul to the weather and saw the match postponed around lunchtime on Friday.
Damn and blast I thought but headed north anyway as hotel, train and friends visiting had already been arranged so sought a replacement game in the area. After much deliberation I decided to make my first visit to the Gateshead International Stadium for a Vanarama National League clash between Gateshead and Aldershot Town.
The Heed get on average around 600 or so for a league game but with their being no premiership this weekend the crowd swelled to 1,074 with most of them hoping for a win that would see The Heed climb back into the play off places. There were 150 supporters from Hampshire which is a very decent effort indeed and those visiting fans were jumping up and down after only five minutes as their team scored a wonderful team goal as great one touch passing and movement saw them slice through the hosts backline and ended with Stephen Browne lofting the ball over Sam Russell for the lead.
It was a poor start from the Heed and they were up against a defence who had not conceded a goal in nearly 300 minutes of football so knew they would face a stern test if they were to get back into the contest. On 16 minutes the hosts were trying to respond but after a volley was miskicked completely at the far side of the box, they fired the next effort way over the bar.
The hosts were having most of the play and pressure but were coming up against the brick wall that was the Shots defence. Just before the half hour mark Ryan Bowman almost saw his dinked cross find its way into the far corner of the Shots net but it drifted just beyond the far post and away from danger. The Heed continued to give the visiting defence something to think about but had yet to test Shots keeper Phil Smith.
However in the 34th minute the hosts finally breached the visitors defence as a cross from the left saw Bowman power home a header beyond Smith and gave the hosts a deserved leveller. It was the first goal Shots have conceded in over 300 minutes and like London buses when you see one you see two as only a couple of minutes later Gateshead had another as a ball laid back to C J Hamilton saw him side foot past Smith brilliantly and the hosts had turned it around just like that.
To their credit the Shots tried to respond and saw a Browne effort go a foot wide of hosts post from outside box five minutes before the break but a minute later they did manage to find a leveller as the Heed switched off at the back, failing to deal with a low cross and Jake Gallagher ghosted in ummarked to side foots home from six yards. It meant the sides went into the break all square in a half that had started slowly but exploded into life past the half hour.
Half Time Gateshead 2 Aldershot Town 2
The first chance of the second half fell to the hosts when Paddy Mclaughlin hit a shot straight at keeper Smith and then three minutes later a good deep cross to the back post from the visitors saw Ross Lafayette head straight at hosts keeper Russell when if it had been either side of him it would have probably given the Shots the lead.
However six minutes into the second half the hosts re-took the lead as a free kick swung in from the right saw Shots defender Joe Oastler, under pressure from his marker, glance a header past his own keeper Smith into the far corner. The visitors felt he had been pushed but the referee was having none of it and the goal stood.
So the Shots had to try and respond again and on 57 minutes were almost gifted a goal when hesitant defending between keeper and defender saw Dan Walker nip in and steal the ball but the angle was too tight and he could only fire across the face of goal and beyond the far post. It was a let off for the hosts though.
The game entered a spell of either side having attacks without really threatening either keeper and on 71 minutes Shots substitute Nathan Ralph drove at the hosts back line but saw his shot go straight at Russell and as the game went on into the last fifteen minutes the hosts began to sit deeper and deeper and allow the visitors to pressurise them a bit, increasing the frustration and anxiety in the home support.
The Heed the playing on the break now and with just under ten minutes to go one such break saw them two on one but the final pass to substitute Danny Johnson saw the forward stray offside although his effort was saved by Smith anyway. It was a good opportunity missed though to seal the game. Two minutes later another hosts attack saw a great drive into the box by Hamilton who then saw his cut back blocked before Johnson could only send his acrobatic effort wide.
The Shots always looked menacing going forward though and with four minutes left came so close to equalising when Browne was played in on the right hand side and after breezing past his marker his low shot squirmed away from Russell before the relieved keeper managed to dive on the loose ball. The hosts managed to see out the remainder of the contest without further alarm and go level on points with Tranmere Rovers in fourth place. The Shots more than played their part in a decent battle but ultimately came up short in the end and they remain in mid table.
Full Time Gateshead 3 Aldershot Town 2
Report by Peter Dudley
For Peter’s blogs of local football action visit pedroslocalfootiefix.blogspot.co.uk
Also Peter can be found on twitter @ped1980