Craig Priest Reports....
Fixture: Gateshead FC V Mansfield Town
Competition: Blue Square Bet Premier – Game #2
Venue: The Gateshead International Stadium
Date & Time: Tuesday 14th August 2012 – 7.45pm
Match Referee: Darren Handley (Bolton)
Attendance: 801 (Approx 200)
Depending what route you take, it is possible to get to Gateshead FC via the infamous Angel of the North. Fair enough it’s the scenic route but still it’s possible, I’m just wondering though if Angels we’re real, that would mean Devils are too right? Metaphorically speaking I think the Stags’ devil lies in Gateshead as last night for the third season on the spin we had a player sent off and for the second season running, crashed to defeat in our first away match of the season.
The defeat has left Paul Cox seething and quite rightly so, Saturday was entirely different as that performance was one of fight, passion, desire and commitment – last night these words and feelings to 80% of our players was an alien concept as we fell to a 4-1 defeat to put us second bottom of the table after two matches.
There is of course no need to panic or do anything stupidly rash, those calling for the manager to be sacked are way off the mark and the comments saying he’s the worst manager we’ve ever had (yes I’ve seriously seen this comment made in the past 12 hours) I refer you to last season and the progress we made! I have faith in Paul to make the changes that clearly need making, he’ll know what areas need to see improvements and he’ll go out and make them as he showed during the game last night.
At full time I sat at the top of the stand looking down on the pitch obviously hurting by the defeat and the negative mannerisms we displayed, trying to think of what we’re missing. It’s clear that we are poor defending set pieces six of the eight we’ve conceded over the course of two games have been from set plays, it’s also clear that the three in midfield hasn’t worked in defensive phases as Newport and Gateshead respectively have exploited space. The thing I think we’re missing most though is passionate leadership, George Pilkington was an excellent choice of captain and comes with a wealth of experience, however I really think we’re missing the passion, drive, energy, work rate and desire of Adam Murray in the middle.
Yes he’s on the touchline as the gaffers right hand man but the same, watching him closely you’ll see he still has all those qualities and displays them in the technical area but not on the same scale as being over the white line in the midfield battle. I’m by no means knocking the appointment of Muz as assistant boss, anyone that knows me will known that Muz is one of my heroes, what I am saying is that his presence on the pitch is missed and that if he was match fit, he’d be back as the first name on the team sheet. It’s a huge shame in my opinion that he probably won’t feature, his boots on the pitch would be difficult to fill but I think we need too – again I reiterate that I’m not worried with just two games on, I am however a little comprehensive and nervous that we may fall into the wrong groove. Remember that old saying, Together Everyone Achieves More? Let’s be sure we don’t break that eh.
Moving onto last night’s match and Paul Cox made just the one change to the line up handing a debut to Junior Daniel (real name Colin but has asked to be referred too as Junior in the media and in person), he replaced Ross Dyer who awaits further news on his injury – striker Matt Rhead returned from holiday to take the vacant seat on the bench.
Line Up [4-3-3]: Alan Marriott – Lee Beevers – George Pilkington (C) – Luke Jones – Andy Owens – Gary Roberts – Jamie Tolley – Anthony Howell – Lindon Meikle – Matt Green – Junior Daniel
Substitutes: John Thompson, Jake Speight, Nick Wright, Chris Clements, Matt Rhead.
It was a lively start for both sides at the Gateshead international stadium last night on what was a warm evening. It was the visiting Stags that pressured first with a lovely flowing move on three minutes sparked by Gary Roberts. The creative midfielder drove his way forward central before playing the ball wide to the advancing Lee Beevers who then sent Meikle on his way down the right channel. Meikle held up well and drove at Paddy Boyle before seeing his cross float away for a goal kick.
Several crosses for both sides fizzled out before the game got interesting on the eight minute mark as a long throw from Gateshead Chris Bush caused danger. A snap shot from the edge of the box as Stags allowed Gateshead to pick up the second ball with flat footed defending saw Liam Hatch fire a shot towards goal. Luke Jones got in a strong block before Andy Owens slammed away for a throw. Chris Bush launched long and the Stags failed to track the run of Liam Hatch, Alan Marriott produced a fine save to palm away for a corner from which Jones was on hand to send Carl Magnay’s volley ballooning over the bar for a second corner. The Stags failed to learn their lessons and didn’t track the run of Liam Hatch who netted from the far post from Josh Gillies’ corner to put the hosts ahead.
Gateshead 1-0 Stags
The Stags then searched for a response with Howell, Tolley and Roberts playing some quick one touch football, the move came to a half as the linesman’s offside flag was raised against the run of Matt Green. A 15th minute cross from Andy Owens failed to test the water and two minutes later, Paul Cox decided enough was enough, withdrawing Jamie Tolley for Jake Speight as the Stags dropped the failing 4-3-3 in favour of a disciplined 4-4-2.
As Speight’s introduction had everyone questioning if it were a case of a poor Tolley showing (hardly relevant as he’d touched the ball no more than three times) or a change of tactics, the Stags won a free kick just over the half way line from which they levelled the game. George Pilkington delivered from deep, taking over set piece duty from Owens after a series of wayward balls, Luke Jones leapt highest at the far post to nod beyond Adam Bartlett in the Heed goal.
Gateshead 1-1 Stags
From the restart Stags looked refreshed and looked to grab the initiative with a free kick in exactly the same position, Pilkington again delivered towards Jones, who the host defence couldn’t handle from every set piece, his header this time blocked into the path of Speight. The early substitutes follow up effort deflected away for a corner from which the Stags failed to create anything.
On 21 minutes a fine move down the Stags left saw Junior Daniel impress with a series of flicks to Speight, it was the latter who drove central before a final reverse pass to Green saw the marksman flagged offside. Seven minutes later Speight was again in the mix, shooting narrowly wide following a long Lee Beevers right sided throw in.
Despite Mansfield’s fight following the goal and a much improved tightness in midfield, the hosts still pushed to retake the lead and had an ideal opportunity on the half hour mark. Luke Jones was the Stags saviour blocking a Phil Turnbull effort from 18 yards before getting to his feet to divert Chris Bush’s follow up cross behind for a corner. The Stags we’re again caught napping by Hatch who fired wide from the back stick. Three minutes later Gary Roberts was disposed in the middle of the Stags half and Gateshead looked to romp forward, Alan Marriott got low down to keep out Turnbull’s driven effort.
Lee Beevers picked up a yellow card for a clumsy challenged with twelve minutes to go before the break and moments later the Stags we’re cursing their luck as Anthony Howell flicked on Alan Marriott’s ball up park. Matt Green burst through and saw his heels clipped by Ben Clark – the referee pointed to the spot for a penalty however soon overturned the decision and gave Gateshead a free kick after spotting the linesman’s offside flag against Green. Gary Roberts then registered one final effort, drilling wide from the second of two corners with a minute to go before the break.
Half Time: Gateshead 1-1 Stags
Paul Cox demonstrated his unhappiness with the defence at the break withdrawing skipper George Pilkington for John Thompson, Luke Jones took the captaincy duties. Thompson was heavily involved early on, heading a Bush throw behind for a corner before again rising to head clear. At the other end Matt Green headed agonisingly wide from an Andy Owens throw before Green and Speight combined to earn a series of throws which again came to nothing.
Liam Hatch then headed wide from a Chris Bush deep free kick on 54 minutes before the hosts edged themselves in front again two minutes later. It all stemmed from another Bush throw which John Thompson headed clear, Lindon Meikle however was disposed by Nathan Fisher on the edge of the box, the Gateshead front man drove forward and drilled beyond Marriott who saw the ball squirm underneath his desperate grip.
Gateshead 2-1 Stags
Stags offered little in reply and we’re often on the back foot, Thompson and Jones preventing numerous counter attacks with strong challenges before the Heed did grab a deserved third on 71 minutes albeit in slightly bizarre fashion. The Stags gave away a needless free kick some 40 yards from goal on the right hand side, Chris Bush stepped up to deliver a cross but saw his hit bounce into the back of the net as Mansfield’s defence stood static and uninterested in attempting a clearance. The ball seemed to take a touch and deflect in however the PA awarded the goal to Bush who’s all round performance warranted a goal.
Matt Rhead replaced Andy Owens as Stags looked for more attacking options, however there night went from bad to worse as Lee Beevers followed in the footsteps of Adam Smith and Tom Naylor with seven minutes to go as he picked up a deserved second yellow card for a late sliding tackle on James Marwood.
The gap left by Beevers led to Gateshead’s fourth on 85 minutes. James Marwood got into an attacking position and squared a pass across the box, Nathan Fisher did the rest, belting home unmarked for his second of the night.
Gateshead 4-1 Stags
In the final minute Lindon Meikle showed flair as he stepped in off the left touch line to fire a shot at Bartlett however it was irrelative as Mansfield’s defensive performance and lack lustre interest level had already consigned them to defeat – the final whistle a relief to Paul Cox who accepts he needs to go back to the drawing board and have a rethink ahead of Saturday’s trip to Kidderminster Harriers.
Full Time: Gateshead 4-1 Stags
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