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  • Writer's pictureHead Scout

Counter Attack

Gateshead 2-3 Solihull Moors (National League)

Think Anthony Gormley and the Angel of the North, Gateshead Metro Centre, Byker Grove, Diamond League Athletics on a summers Friday night. Gateshead FC have only been established since 1977. I was born in 1978, so I feel we’ve grown up together… A lot of my childhood in the 80’s and 90’s was in sync with this town’s own growth in popularity and structure, which I suppose is ‘why’ I’ve wanted to pay it a visit.

I’ve been here twice already this season to watch Newcastle United’s youngsters in the UEFA Youth league, but it’ll be first time watching ‘the Heed’ tonight. A side who have yo-yoed in and out of the fifth tier of English football over the years. A side last season who reached the FA Trophy final at Wembley and are this season facing Peterborough Sports in the quarter finals on Saturday.

Also in Trophy action (at Wealdstone) this weekend are Solihull Moors, visitors and opponents tonight, both teams have been going well, in the playoffs zone, should either go on to gain promotion to the football league it’ll be the highest steps ever taken by their own, Solihull’s best ever season in 2018/19 when they finished second behind Leyton Orient before crashing out in the playoff semi-finals (although they did reach the playoff final, losing to Grimsby Town in 2022). Gateshead finished third in the Skrill Bet Premier during 2013/14, a season when Luton Town finished top. Just look what is possible in little under ten years.

I’m up the M1 and A1 heading north before reaching Durham services by 5pm. There’s a lad in a Doncaster Rovers tracksuit sitting in a car next to me eating McDonalds, a fan in a Solihull Moors scarf outside the service station doors, I’ve already passed three bus loads of Leicester City supporters as they make way to Sunderland, a quick pit stop and I’m off on the final leg, onto the A194 and Lingley Lane before hitting the Felling Bypass and pulling up outside the venue, parked in an industrial estate on Stadium Road, before getting out of my car and walking the last bits, towards reception.

The Venue

The back of the Tyne & Wear stand is iconic and another flashback to my childhood, reminding me of Subbuteo sets, it looks similar to the one at Windsor Park or those at Wolves and Nottingham Forest which were all built around a similar time in the 70’s and 80’s.

Around the perimeter, a lot has been done to modernise the venue and the reception is huge, a glass fronted sports hall, I’m inside asking where I get my tickets before being given a purple wristband and told to walk to the turnstile and make my own way inside.

Through a gate and up the steps, there’s no particular media section at the Gateshead International Stadium but I’m told I can sit on the ‘comfy’ VIP chairs which hog half way, the view highly elevated but panoramic with the pitch in the middle of a red running track, nicely lit up against the dark backdrop of the northern Tyneside sky.

The Game

I’m perched up near the National League TV cameras as a Gateshead player not in today’s squad, Lewis Knight, sits behind me, he’s had to cut his shuttle runs short as his GPS is not working properly.

The two teams out on the pitch are going at it from the off, both attack minded with both looking to get their wingers in play, Gateshead push forward but leave gaps at the back and Solihull counter down the sides where they are particularly strong, in Jack Stevens on the left and Tahvon Campbell down the right, they already cause early problems, but cultured midfielder Ed Francis plays a superb defence splitting pass from midfield and the hosts are away, Kain Adom crosses low from the right, the ball eventually finds it’s way back to Ben Worman who drills hard and low and the home side have early advantage after just three minutes played.

The crowd of under 800 are all in this single tiered stand with the Heed fanbase to my right, making all the noise standing up, singing songs in fine flow, a few from Solihull to my left, not quite finding their form just yet, but hats off to them for making the long journey.

Those Moors fans soon have something to cheer about. A slip by Louis Storey allows Tahvon Campbell in, he’s running onto a through ball and is inside the box, a cool player in Campbell then calmly dinks home, he’s a special talent with pace, size and technique, a super signing in February from Rochdale, is one that could help Andy Whing’s side secure a playoff spot this season.

Another player who’s form will have a big say on where Solihull finish in the table is left sider Jack Stevens. He’s got away on a couple of occasions and is on the end of a decent move to drill low and shoot the away side into the lead. He then gets booked for diving inside the box as he breaks away from Adom, the home team full backs struggling to compete with their opposite winger’s speed.

The Score

At half time I can’t help feel that the home side have played into their opponents hands, in going for the jugular, they’ve left themselves open and have been done on numerous occasions on the counter-attack. It’s the first time I’ve seen Solihull away from home this season, but it’s the best I’ve seen them play, they look like making something happen everytime they go forward, and after a lively start to the second half which starts with Gateshead attacking, it has Moors again breaking dangerously as Campbell is felled inside the box, soft call but a penalty is awarded, Stevens does the rest to put them 3-1 up.

That goal provides the cushion needed for Solihull to defend a little more sensibly and get folk behind the ball, Gateshead can’t break through, as they keep possession, they use substitute Dajuane Brown, on loan from Derby County, who does strike wide as he’s slipped in one on one, but at the other end a post is clattered on the break, both goalkeepers make good saves before a late corner is nodded in by Brown, a looping header that has the away side calling for offside, eight minutes of injury time, but Solihull hang on.

The Stars

Tahvon Campbell looks a timely addition after Solihull lost their impressive striker Josh Kelly to AFC Wimbledon in January. A 27-year-old journeyman of the lower leagues it’s his second spell at Solihull and one which he looks to be embracing, he linked up well with the talented Tyrese Shade who is on loan from Swindon Town, but star of the show was Jack Stevens who scored two goals and proved a menace down the left all night, often linking well with the spritely Joe Sbarra.

For Gateshead, Ed Francis, socks rolled down his ankles, looked to be the main playmaker capable of finding team-mates with defence splitting passes, he had a hand in both goals from midfield, down the left, Luke Hannant looked a threat, whilst Derby loanee Dajuane Brown offered more in half an hour from the bench than Marcus Dinanga did in attack, for the complete 98 minutes and more.

Credit both teams goalkeepers who must also be worthy of a mention. James Montgomery is on loan at Gateshead from Spennymoor and he did well, looking to get on the ball and play, as much as any outfield player, often well outside his goal, whilst Nick Hayes, solid, reliable, dependable, a little more old-fashioned with his goalkeeping approach, is a number one (wearing 32) who I really like.

The Verdict

There’s a good chance both sides will meet again in the playoffs or even cup this season, Gateshead has earlier beaten Solihull on their own patch and in a funny way, both teams are probably better suited to playing away, they offer similar attacking strength from out wide and are happy to go toe to toe. Two good footballing teams who play an entertaining brand of the beautiful game, five goals and plenty of positive perspective from the nights showing, which makes that three hour plus journey home always that bit more pleasurable.

The Teams

Gateshead: James Montgomery, Mamadou Jobe, Louis Storey (Dajuane Brown 64), Kenton Richardson, Kain Adom, Luke Hannant, Ed Francis, Callum Whelan, Regan Booty (Joe Grayson 72), Ben Worman (Kieron Evans 60), Marcus Dinanga.

Solihull Moors: Nick Hayes, James Clarke, Joe Newton, Jamey Osborne, Joe Sbarra, Callum Maycock, Tyrese Shade (Matty Warburton 90), Jack Stevens (Joss Labadie 79), Jon Benton (Kade Craig 68), Tahvon Campbell, Alex Whitmore.

7:45pm Kick Off. Tuesday 5th March 2024, Gateshead International Stadium, Gateshead (att 794).


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