Morpeth versus Gatesehad - By Alan Price

Morpeth 1, Gateshead 4 - by Alan Price.

Gateshead’s 2007 pre-season schedule began in the rural surroundings of Morpeth’s Craik Park.  Pre-season began too early for James Curtis, Steve Salvin, Paul Talbot and Richard Flynn who were all on their summer holidays, but it was still a strong visiting side that started the game in Gateshead’s claret change strip.  A crowd of about 60 had gathered, the majority of whom appeared to be from Gateshead.

Bowey won the toss and opted to attack the northern goal so that Gateshead had the sun on their backs. Morpeth kicked off at the strange time of 12 noon.  This timing was arranged to allow Gateshead manager Ian Bogie the opportunity to play in Mel Harmison’s testimonial match at Bedlington later in the afternoon.  Within the first two minutes the visitors had been warned that it was not to be a stroll; Southern and Harwood were both brought down heavily, by Millen and Ford respectively.  Referee Ord had words with both Morpeth players, but the physio was not called upon.

Before four minutes were on the clock, Gateshead had taken the lead.  Southern played Armstrong into the right side of the penalty area, and although the ball bobbled awkwardly, the centre forward shot across the static Poskett into the net.  Morpeth Town 0 Gateshead 1.

Soon after the restart, Armstrong beat the Morpeth goalkeeper to the ball and caught Poskett out of position, but when he floated the ball in from the left, it fell behind Hughes who couldn’t connect properly and the danger was cleared.

After 7 minutes, the home keeper was in action again as Southern brought a fine save from a 30-yard bullet.  Poskett had to dive high to his right to tip the ball around the post for a corner, and when this was floated in, they were forced to concede another corner on the other wing.  Southern took the second corner and worked a neat one-two with Hughes which gave the Gateshead number 7 the room to cross for Baker to head in from close range.  Eight minutes gone, Morpeth Town 0 Gateshead 2, and the home side had not put together any sort of threat to the visitors’ goal.

With 13 minutes gone Hughes flashed a 20-yarder low and to the left of Poskett’s goal as it continued to be one-way traffic.

Morpeth’s first shot on goal came in the 19th minute when Ford was put through on the left, but he volleyed over the bar.  Scott Thompson then came on in place of Campbell for the first of many Gateshead substitutions.

On 23 minutes Baker tried to curl a 20-yarder into the top left corner, but Poskett made a comfortable save.  A minute later Scope tried something similar from a 25-yard free-kick, but Bell collected at the second attempt.  Two minutes on, Mullen fired low from 30 yards, but the ball went well wide.  Then at the other end Harwood was worked in wide on the right, but he shot across goal from a narrow angle.

Just after the half-hour it was Bowey’s turn to test Poskett, but the home keeper saved low to his left.  But soon after that, Phillips got to the byline following a well-worked move involving Southern on the left wing, and looped a cross over the goalkeeper which Scott Thompson had to stoop to nod in from about a yard.  33 minutes gone: Morpeth Town 0 Gateshead 3.

In the following minute, the visitors again tore into Morpeth down the left, and Southern cut the ball back from the byline to Bowey, but the captain’s weak shot landed in Poskett’s arms.

Five minutes before the break the home side won on free kick on the right, but Bell’s effort, although on target, was never going to be strong enough to beat Bell.  Then Rue made room to shoot, but the Gateshead keeper again saved comfortably, diving low to his left.

With two minutes to go in the half, Armstrong got clear on the left to go one-on-one with the keeper, but Poskett narrowed the angle and blocked the shot with his leg.  Soon afterwards Harwood put Scott Thompson in a shooting position, but he could not make proper contact and Poskett collected without any trouble.

Half-time: Morpeth Town 0 Gateshead 3.

Both sides made several substitutions for the second half, and as usual for a pre-season game there were a number of changes thereafter, with some players returning to the fray and everyone on the teamsheet getting into the game at some stage.  The half began with Paul Thompson causing confusion in the Morpeth defence, but although he hooked the ball over to find his namesake Scott in space, the latter rushed his shot and cleared the crossbar.  Moments later Paul made space to try his luck, but his shot lacked power and was saved easily by Morpeth’s substitute keeper.

A dangerous ball was sent into the Gateshead penalty area from the Morpeth right wing, but the visitors’ defence combined to scramble the ball clear.  Then Mullen committed two bad fouls in the space of a few minutes and was booked in the 57th.

With 59 minutes gone, we were treated to a spectacular goal.  Phillips, who seemed to cause Morpeth problems all afternoon whenever he went forward, embarked upon a mazy run, weaving past several yellow-shirted players.  As he got into the penalty area, several of his team-mates were calling for the ball, but Wayne was not to be denied, and rifled an unstoppable 10-yarder into the roof of the net.  Morpeth Town 0 Gateshead 4.

At this stage Paul Thompson dropped back into central defence to replace the substituted Baker, and Southern, who himself had been taken off at half time, rejoined the attack.

As Morpeth tried to get into the game, on 64 minutes Scope floated a free-kick in from the right wing, but Rue headed wide at the far post.  This turned out to be the start of a passage of the game where the home side were on top, and a crisp passing move resulted in Phillipson firing at the target, but bell saved well, low to his right.  Another well-worked move saw Phillipson set up Elrington with a good chance, but he dragged a grasscutter wide of the left-hand post.  On 77 minutes Bell was replaced by Blackmer, but the American had to change his yellow number 1 jersey for Bell’s 13 as it was the same colour as the Morpeth shirts.

Rue had a shot blocked by a Gateshead defender, as the visitors’ play was becoming increasingly scrappy and error-ridden.  On 80 minutes Scope rode a couple of challenges to
hit a 25-yard bullet into the bottom left-hand corner; Gateshead’s tall American keeper seemed to be unsighted by his defence and though he stretched to his right, the shot was too well struck for him to reach.  Morpeth Town 1 Gateshead 4.

This seemed to wake the visitors from their slump, and Southern created space to shoot from a narrow angle on the left, but his powerful shot scraped past the far post.  Then Harwood shot from the edge of the penalty area, but the ball screwed well wide of the left-hand post.

Three minutes from time Johnson swung a high cross into the Gateshead penalty area from the left, but Ford headed wide.  The Unibond League side went close twice in the dying minutes, then almost with the last kick of the game confusion in the Morpeth defence left Scott Thompson with an easy chance, but he managed to hit the angle of the right-hand post and crossbar.  

Full time: Morpeth Town 1 Gateshead 4.

Match Facts:

                                       First             Second          Total
Shots on target                 3                   2                   5
Off target/blocked              1                   3                   4
Corners                            1                   0                   1
Hit woodwork                    0                   0                   0
Bookings                          0                   1                   1

Goals: Scope 80min.                                          
                                      First               Second         Total
Shots on target                  8                   3                   11
Off target/blocked               2                   4                    6
Corners                             2                   0                    2
Hit woodwork                     0                   1                    1
Bookings                           0                   0                   0

Goals: Armstrong 03min., Baker 08min,
         S.Thompson 33min, Phillips 59min.