By Liam Carson
SETTING THE SCENE
A new era dawns this weekend as new manager Steve Watson takes his inaugural game in charge of Heed as they face their first FA Cup tie of the season, against the Evo-Stik Northern Premier League side Buxton.
The Bucks, who currently sit 14th in the 7th tier of English football, have already battled through three rounds of qualifying to reach this stage of the competition.
In the first round of qualifying, Buxton were given a stern test by Evo-Stik Northern Premier League Division One South side Frickley Athletic but they battled on and progressed with a 3-2 victory. The Blue and Greens had been in the lead at half-time but the Bucks managed to turn it around in the second-half to get through to the second round of qualifying.
Next up was another home tie for Martin McIntosh’s side, with another Evo-Stik Northern Premier League Division One South side, Chasetown, supplying the opposition. The contest was much more one-sided compared to the Frickely Athletic game as the Buck’s ran out 4-1 winners.
A further Evo-Stik Northern Premier League Division One South side provided the competition in the third round of qualifying for Buxton. In this round, it was Ian Long’s side Alvechurch who travelled to Derbyshire.
The Church, who had only been promoted to the 8th tier of English football the previous year were unlucky to lose the game as they had led the game from the 11th minute through Daniel Dubidat. The Bucks could not break through the Alvechurch defence throughout the game until the dying minutes when Ricky Ravenhill and Sam Smith both scored in the last three minutes to send the Bucks through.
The Heed head down to the Tarmac Silverlands Stadium on the back of a busy week which saw Neil Aspin depart for Port Vale, a 0-0 draw away at Fylde, a 2-1 defeat at home to Bromley before Steve Watson was presented as the new manager of Gateshead on Tuesday morning.
The FA Cup fixture will provide Steve Watson with his first challenge as manager as he looks to guide the Heed into the First Round proper.
Jamal Fyfield is suspended for the weekend after picking up his fifth yellow card of the season against Bromley last weekend. Injury-wise, Steve Watson has a near full-squad to choose from in his first match as Gateshead manager. Only James Montgomery (shoulder) is expected to miss the FA Cup clash.
WHAT WE’RE SAYING
Speaking at his first Heed press conference on Tuesday morning, Steve Watson made his vision clear for the future of Gateshead Football Club.
“You have to have the players and you have to have something to build on and I believe we’ve got the players.
“The rest of it will come, maybe a different style of play to what they have been playing or maybe a different sort of philosophy on work ethic and standards and things like that.
“I have seen teams succeed in this division and make no mistake, that’s why I’m here. I’m here to be successful and to take this team into the football league.”
On the prospect of his first FA Cup game as a manager, Watson said.
“The first job is getting to the next round of the FA Cup.
“I’m a very honest guy and I do believe what I say, that there’s a squad of players already here that is equal to most, if not every team in the league.
“It’s just a case of getting their confidence back and getting them playing football, starting on Saturday.”
WHAT THEY’RE SAYING
Speaking ahead of the FA Cup tie, Martin McIntosh has said.
“It’s a huge task but we just need to be competitive, be at it from the start and enjoy the occasion.
“We can’t make it easy for Gateshead. We’re at home and in front of what will hopefully be a big crowd and given our previous two attempts at this stage were away from home, this could be seen as our best chance ever to get to the first round and a potential money spinner.
“Steve Watson has gone in this week and he’ll be familiar with our set-up having been here a couple of times with Macclesfield for pre-season games when he was a coach there, so he’ll have an idea what to expect and will want to get off to a good start.
“We just have to make sure they know they’re in for a tough game and the longer we can keep within reach of a result, the more we can unsettle them.”
Buxton have not reached the First Round proper of the FA Cup since 1963 when they beat Gainsborough Trinity in a Fourth Qualifying Round replay, which they won 4-1.
The Heed have failed to get through to the First Round in the last two seasons however, did make it past the qualifying stages in five of the last six seasons before that.
Admission is priced as follows:
Adults – £10
Concessions – £6
Under-16s – £2
Tickets on the gate.
LAST TIME WE MET
Seasoned Heed fans will remember back to the 2007/08 season when Gateshead secured promotion from the Unibond Premier League with a 2-0 play-off final triumph over Buxton at the International Stadium.
A fine solo effort from Kris Gate opened the scoring in the second half before a Paul Brayson secured the win with a swift counter-attacking goal with just over 10 minutes to play.
The Heed would go on to earn back-to-back promotions, finishing second in the Conference North the following season and returning to the top flight of non-league football after over a decade away.