March 1, 2015
A second-half goal from substitute Ellis Harrison sank Gateshead and secured a fifth win on the bounce for Vanarama Conference pacesetters Bristol Rovers.
The forward’s well-taken effort midway through the second-half settled a game of few chances – leaving the Heed 12 points shy of the division’s final play-off place.
On the back of an important victory against Kidderminster Harriers on Tuesday night, however, the Tynesiders came storming out of the blocks.
Just 40 seconds in, the Pirates rearguard failed to deal with an Alex Rodman cross, and the ball eventually dropped for Valentin Gjokaj, who cleared the crossbar with a powerful drive.
Two minutes later, debutant Lynden Gooch’s low corner was met by Carl Finnigan, with the frontman volleying narrowly wide at full stretch.
Gooch himself then gathered the ball just inside penalty area following an Oster delivery, only for his stabbed effort to be charged down by Rovers’ Andy Monkhouse.
Darrell Clarke’s side failed to register an effort on goal in the opening half-hour, but at last began to show glimpses of their attacking intent in the closing exchanges of the first-half.
On 38 minutes, right-back Daniel Leadbitter – a product of the Newcastle United youth system – embarked on a marauding run into the Heed’s 18-yard box, before scooping over the crossbar.
Just before the interval, Adam Dawson – a substitute for the injured Stuart Sinclair – sent a left-footed effort sailing wide of Adam Bartlett’s near post from 20 yards.
Both sides were lacking in purpose as the second-half began, the game becoming fragmented – blighted by a series of wayward challenges, with tempers running high.
Rovers forward Matty Taylor cleared the crossbar with a left-footed strike on the hour-mark, before teammate Tom Lockyer saw his 20-yard effort charged down by Gooch.
It was fast looking likely that one goal would be enough to earn all three points, and so it proved.
On 71 minutes, a long punt forward from visiting left-back Lee Brown bounced over the head of the Tynesiders’ Tom Allan, and – after holding off the challenge of the young defender – Harrison coolly lifted the ball above Bartlett and into the back of the net.
The Heed never – truly – recovered from that setback, creating only one chance of note late on.
With just over 10 minutes remaining, substitute Adam Campbell did admirably to get his head to Rodman’s in-swinging cross, only for Rovers goalkeeper Steve Mildenhall to calmly collect with both hands.
Gateshead return to the International Stadium on Tuesday night, with FA Trophy finalists Wrexham making the journey north.
Gateshead: Bartlett, Jones, Curtis, Clark (Allan, 40), Oster (Ramshaw, 85), Finnigan, Baxter, Rodman, Pattison, Gjokaj (Campbell, 75), Gooch.
Bristol Rovers: Mildenhall, Leadbitter, McChrystal, Parkes, Brown, Lockyer, Mansell, Monkhouse, Sinclair (Dawson, 28), Taylor (Harrison, 64), Blissett.
Goalscorer: Harrison (71).
Referee: Ian Hussin