8.9.2007

UniBond Northern Premier League

Gateshead

Harwood (27), (44), Cave (37), Southern (49), (84), Hughes (62)

Hednesford Town

Knox (38), Blair (40)

(3) 6

(2) 2

Attendance

MoTM

Current Form

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361

Dave MacPherson

W W L W L L L

Eastwood Town (H) 10.9.07

The Pitmen are completely outclassed and outscored this afternoon as big-spending Gateshead put Phil Starbuck's side to the sword with a lethal display of finishing to embarrass the visitors and leave them marooned in mid-table after a third successive defeat

After witnessing another disjointed display at Ashton United in midweek, manager Phil Starbuck made two changes to the team for this afternoon's game as Rob Hawthorne was handed his league debut in place of Dominic Heath and Peter Knox replacing Keenen Meakin-Richards. The Hednesford bench had an attacking look to it with the likes of Chris Adam, Heath and the fit-again Alan Nagington all included

Gateshead were flying at the top of the UniBond Premier League with five wins from their first five games, justifying manager Ian Bogie's financial outlay over the summer months to add to his ranks with several big signings. Bogie made two changes from the side that had hammered Frickley Athletic 5-2 in midweek as Phil Cave and Wayne Phillips came into the side at the expense of Paul Talbot and Chris Hughes

The visitors started well enough on the large open areas of the International Stadium with winger Simon Forsdick firing just over the bar in the third minute after a mazy run down the right flank before cutting inside

 

Gateshead responded through David Southern, their top scorer last season, who tried his luck from twenty-five yards out with a rising shot that soared over Rene Gilmartin's crossbar

In a frenetic opening ten minutes, Knox almost connected with a spectacular overhead kick from a Forsdick cross on eight minutes, but the ball drifted over the head of the strike as he attempted to connect with the cross

 

Knox went even closer with a header from a Ross Dyer cross four minutes later, with his effort dipping just wide of the post as the away side threatened to take the game to the hosts in the early stages

Steve Dowey tested Rene Gilmartin on sixteen minutes with a downward header from a Phillips cross that the on-loan Walsall stopper easily held at his near post

More chances fell to the Pitmen, who were once again wasteful in front of goal; Dyer lashed a shot wide of goal with a low first-time shot from a Tom Ward pass on twenty minutes

Midway through the half, Knox spun away from Craig Baxter's flimsy challenge and created a chance for himself, but again his effort lacked direction and ended up bouncing across the running track surrounding the pitch

Forsdick's trickery two minutes later saw him skip inside of Cave's attempted tackle and cut into the Gateshead box before attempting a curling shot that dipped past Gateshead goalkeeper Peter Keen's far post. Close from the former Halesowen Town man

 

Skipper Dave MacPherson had a clear sight of goal on twenty-six minutes as Hawthorne laid the ball into his path, only for the experienced midfielder to embarrassingly miss his kick with a comedy air-shot as the ball came across his body, much to the amusement of the Gateshead crowd

 

This period of pressure without a goal was to prove crucial for the Pitmen as the home side took the ball down the other end and opened the scoring a minute later; Graeme Armstrong pass played Jamie Harwood in on goal, with the winger slotting the ball past a completely exposed Gilmartin

A flurry of activity inside the Gateshead penalty area failed to produce an equaliser, with Knox going closest to grabbing an equaliser on thirty-three minutes as he tried to force the bouncing ball home before the Heed finally cleared their lines

Despite having the better of the chances in the first half thus far, the Pitmen somehow found themselves two goals down eight minutes from half-time. Southern and Dowey's quick interplay once again opened up the hesitant Hednesford defence, leaving Cave to fire past Gilmartin from close range and double their advantage

From the restart, however, the Pitmen snatched a lifeline as Tom Marshall's long, rangy ball found Dyer in space down the right. Dyer played striker partner Knox in, who turned Baxter and fired confidently low into the net

After looking down and out a 2-0 down, the visitors got themselves back into the game as they grabbed a well-deserved equaliser just two minutes later. ward's ball into the path of Knox saw the burly forward turn and play in Blair, who tapped home from close range to give the Pitmen their cherished leveller. Game on once more

Despite this great fightback, the Pitmen then contrived to throw it away by allowing Gateshead to score a third right on half-time. Poor defending saw the Hednesford defence watch as the ball bounced into the area, allowing Harwood to seize upon the loose ball and smash it past Gilmartin. It was Harwood's fifth goal in his past two games after a hat-trick against Frickley

Any half time tactics or plans put into place by Starbuck and assistant Jimmy Mullen were immediately destroyed as Gateshead went further in from four minutes after the restart; once again, poor defending was at the heart of it all as a searching ball forwards from Graeme Armstrong dropped into the path of Southern, who finished with aplomb as he was given all the time in the world to pick his spot

Armstrong seizing on a mistake by Ross Adams two minutes later and drove his way into the Hednesford penalty area, but drilled his low effort just wide of Gilmartin's goal

The Pitmen were struggling to get out of their own half and resorted to long, aimless balls out towards Knox and Dyer, with Knox constantly being flagged offside by the assistant on the far side after moving too soon

The visitors were causing themselves problems, giving away possession too much and creating openings for Gateshead with their nervy, tentative play. A terrible pass from Marshall across his own penalty area was seized upon by Southern, who was denied a certain goal by a combination of Adams' presence and the striker's dawdling on the ball as he skewed his effort wide

The Pitmen made an attacking change on fifty-eight minutes as defender Gordon Simms was taken off in favour of the more attacking threat of Chris Adam down the left

 

Another defensive error let the home side in for their fifth just after the hour mark after Forsdick had failed to clear a simple ball and allowed Phillips to play substitute Hughes in, who had the simple task of tapping past Gilmartin

There were bright parts of the game for the Pitmen despite the scoreline; MacPherson's tireless efforts in midfield had seen the Hednesford skipper break up countless Gateshead attacks and protect the leaky defence as much as his abilities could allow

Blair's game was brought to an end on sixty-four minutes as he was replaced by Nagington up front to give the Pitmen a more natural goalscorer to aim at

 

A half-chance fell to Dyer on seventy minutes, but the striker was out of luck as he scuffed his shot wide. Adam was also presented with an opening a minute later but lifted his shot high over the crossbar

 

MacPherson could have scored himself with fifteen minutes of the game remaining but his header from a fine Dyer cross was blocked by Baxter and subsequently cleared

Knox's hard running and pressure on the Gateshead defence had certainly kept them on their toes, with the striker taken off before the game restarted as Heath came on in his place

Gateshead substitute Ian Robson nearly made an instant impact on the game after replacing Armstrong on eighty-one minutes, exchanging passes with Phillips before firing just wide of Gilmartin's goal from twelve yards out

On an afternoon of individual errors, a terrible error by Gilmartin gave Gateshead a sixth goal with six minutes of the game remaining. Cave's cross appeared to be a regulation claim for the tall stopper, only for the Walsall loanee to make a terrible hash of catching the ball in flight and fumbling into the path of Southern, who steered the loose ball home from close range

 

It had been a sobering a demoralising afternoon for the visitors, who now faced a four-hour trip home after being hammered by a highly efficient Gateshead side that will surely be in the mix for the title at the end of the season. Three poor defeats in a row leaves Starbuck and Mullen with several selection dilemmas ahead of Monday night's visit of Eastwood Town to Keys Park, particularly in the troublesome defensive area

Gateshead: Keen, Baxter, Cave, Bowey (Flynn 84), Curtis, Salvin, Southern, McClen, Armstrong (Robson 78), Harwood (Hughes 52), Phillips       Subs Unused: None

Hednesford Town: Gilmartin, Marshall, Adams, Simms (Adam 58), Hawthorne, MacPherson ©, Forsdick, Ward, Dyer, Blair (Nagington 64), Knox (Heath 75)      Subs Unused: None