By Liam Carson
Setting The Scene
The Heed face a tough test today as the visitors look to maintain their strong recent form.
Gateshead welcome relegation-threatened Solihull Moors to the GIS this afternoon but it will be a difficult game for the Heed as the Moors have been enjoying their results as of late.
Since Mark Yates was appointed at the Automated Technology Group Stadium in mid-November, the Moors have lost just five games in the league. It is a spell which has seen the West Midlands based side go from being 10 points adrift at Christmas, to a side that is now just two points from safety.
The revival in the West Midlands has seen the Moors record some big results in recent weeks. Wins against promotion-chasing Dover Athletic and draws with Wrexham and league leaders Macclesfield Town have given Solihull a real chance of maintaining their National League status.
Yates’ side have had a relatively solid defence this year however, the Moors have really struggled to score goals.
With just 35 goals scored, Solihull have one of the lowest records of any side in the division. This record was not helped when the Moors top scorer this season, striker Oladapo Afolayan, who had managed an impressive return of 12 goals, signed for West Ham United last month.
Afolayan’s departure saw the arrival of Alex Reid on-loan from Fleetwood Town and the permanent addition of Kwame Thomas who, while they have both been amongst the goals in recent weeks, have not quite lived up to the standards left by Afolayan.
The club’s current top scorer is a man who is no stranger to the North East. Former Sunderland midfielder Darren Carter has seven goals already to his name for the Moors this season, after arriving at the club in the summer.
Goals have certainly not been an issue for the Heed in recent weeks and especially Danny Johnson. The striker is really enjoying a purple patch of form at the moment as in just three games the Middlesbrough man has scored seven, including his first professional hat-trick against Maidenhead United, at the weekend.
Solihull Moors last played in the league on Saturday and nearly secured a point at the weekend against Sutton United but just couldn’t grab the necessary equaliser, as the U’s ran out 1-0 winners.
Russell Penn (hip) was rested on Saturday and skipper Neill Byrne (hamstring) was withdrawn but both expected to be back in contention as Watson looks to have a fully-fit squad to choose from.
What We’re Saying
Gateshead boss Steve Watson commented after Saturday’s 7-1 win at home to Maidenhead:”We’re back on track. We’re thinking about Solihull now”
“I said in the press conference on Thursday that we needed maximum points in the two league games and we’re halfway there.
“As I say, we’ll assess everybody. Neill (Byrne) felt a bit of tightness in his hamstring so we didn’t take any chances with him. We didn’t take any chances with Jordan Preston as he took a heavy hit [last] Saturday. Russ [Russell Penn] had back spasms.
“So we’re just fortunate that we’ve got fantastic players and quality to come off the bench.”
What They’re Saying
Speaking to Solihull Moors official website ahead of the game, Mark Yates said: “We’ll be in on Monday to see who’s in what state and get ready to go.
“They’re a good side, we know that but we’ve got to go up there with the same commitment, same work rate, same endeavour and hopefully a little bit more quality in certain areas.
“We got into some good positions today and didn’t quite get that final ball where we should’ve done. Hopefully, we can go and get a positive result.”
NUFC/SAFC season ticket holders: £10
Ages 16-17 and students: £5
Tickets available on the gate.
Last Time We Met
It was only days after Mark Yates had taken charge of Solihull Moors that he faced the challenge of Steve Watson’s Gateshead.
Jordan Burrow grabbed the opening goal from the spot for the Heed at the Automated Technology Group Stadium, after the Moors skipper Darren Carter had fouled Russell Penn in the box.
Gateshead looked to be in control of the play as half-time approached with Richard Peniket nearly doubling his side’s lead but Russell Penn’s sending off just before the break, changed the game.
Penn was given his marching orders after a late foul on Moors skipper Darren Carter. From then on, the Heed were under the quash.
Steve Watson’s side fought hard to maintain the lead but conceded an equaliser midway through the second-half, as Wes Atkinson headed in to Dan Hanford’s net.
It made for a tense finish as the Moors, with their man advantage, as they looked to grab a winner, but Gateshead dug in deep to earn a point.
Solihull Moors: O’Leary, Bowen, Carter (c), Atkinson, Hylton, P. Green, Daly, Keleeher, Asante (Afolayan 58′), Richards (Murombedzi 77′), Thomas.
Subs not used: K. Green, Kettle.
Goals: Atkinson (66′)
Bookings: P. Green (84′), Thomas (88′).
Gateshead (4-4-2): Hanford; Tinkler, Kerr, Byrne (c) (Fyfield 48′), Barrow; Preston (McLaughlin 41), Penn, Maxwell, O’Donnell; Peniket (York 72), Burrow.
Subs not used: Montgomery (GK), JOhnson.
Goals: Burrow (13′)
Bookings: Maxwell (23′), Penn (37′), O’Donnell (84′)
Sending Off: Penn (39′)
Referee: Paul Marsden
Attendance: 534 (107 Gateshead)