By Rory Drake
A hat-trick from Luke Armstrong against his former club helped Gateshead to victory as they completed an unbeaten pre-season campaign against Blyth Spartans at Croft Park.
Armstrong gave Gateshead the lead midway through the first half but Dan Maguire drew Spartans level just after the restart.
Armstrong then restored the Heed’s lead for the visitors in the 75th minute before completing his hat-trick in the closing stages.
Gateshead came in to the game hoping to get back to winning ways after a goalless draw with Livingston in midweek. But the Hosts created the first chance of note in the 3rd minute, with Dan Maguire cutting in from the left and firing straight at Aynsley Pears.
Gateshead then came close themselves at the other end with Greg Olley shooting from 25-yards, but the shot bounced kindly for Blyth keeper Peter Jameson.
Both teams were getting in to good areas without creating any real clear cut chances, but in the 23rd minute Blyth created the best chance of the game so far, with Bradley Fewster finding Jarrett Rivers whose effort from 15-yards clipped the crossbar.
The Heed were edging game and took a deserved lead in the 27th minute when Elliott Forbes played in Armstrong, who cut across a Blyth defender before slotting the ball past Jameson.
Gateshead could have added a second just before half time, with Armstrong playing in Forbes on the edge of the box, but the midfielder drilled the ball just wide.
Trialist Lewis Walton then came close to extending the lead with his corner curling onto the bar.
Blyth started the second half on top and were level within three minutes after a goalmouth scramble saw the ball fall to Maguire who squeezed the ball under Pears.
Blyth were looking dangerous and came close to taking the lead on the hour mark, but Fewster’s effort was well saved by Pears.
Cameron Salkeld then came close to putting Gateshead back in front but fired wide from a tight angle.
Tom White then came close with an effort aimed at thebottom corner, but his shot lacked the power needed to beat Jameson.
The second half was very stop start with both sides making a number of substitutions and it was one of Gateshead’s who made the next meaningful contribution.
Trialist Steven Rigg played a low cross in to the box which Armstrong latched on to, the ball hit the bar and then looked to have crossed the line with Maloney making sure for good measure as Gateshead went back in front.
Maguire then twice came close for Blyth as they looked to restore parity but couldn’t beat Pears with either effort.
With five minutes to go, trialist Tom Devitt did well to find Armstrong in the box, who headed past Jameson to wrap the game up for Gateshead with a perfect hat-trick.
Blyth Spartans: Jameson, Nicholson, Liddle (Ian Watson 72’), Green, Buddle (Jordan Watson 68’), Trialist, Rivers (Wrighton 58’), Horner (Trialist 72’), Maguire, Fewster (Trialist 86′), Dale (c)
Unused subs: Butler, Trialist
Goals: Maguire (48)
Gateshead: Pears; Tinkler (MacManus 77’), Mellish, Williamson (Devitt 63) , Thomson (Salkeld 52’), White, Walton (O’Donnell 52’), Forbes (Maloney 63’), Olley, Armstrong, Boden (Rigg 68’)
Unused subs: Foden
Goals: Armstrong (27′, 75′, 85′)
Referee: Dean Hulme