By Dominic Scurr
FEBRUARY 2 was anything but Groundhog Day for Gateshead as they picked up their first-ever National League win at Dover thanks to a last gasp goal from Birthday boy Greg Olley.
Dover defender Kevin Lokko headed the hosts in front early on before Fraser Kerr grabbed a deserved equaliser with just over 10 minutes to play. Then, up stepped Olley to make it 2-1 with what was virtually the last kick of the game at Crabble Athletic Ground
It was also a first win in charge for new Tynesiders boss Ben Clark as his side moved back into the play-off places.
After making their longest away trip of the season for the National League’s only match to go ahead over the weekend, Gateshead found themselves a goal down inside the opening 10-minutes.
Lokko rose highest inside the six-yard box to nod the ball into the centre of the goal from Mitch Brundle’s corner.
The home side started the game on the front foot and could well have extended their lead further had it not been for a couple of fine stops from goalkeeper Aynsley Pears to twice deny Brundle.
Gateshead found Dover difficult to break down in the first half, with Steve Rigg’s shot straight at Whites’ keeper Mitch Walker, a speculative right-footed effort from Scott Barrow and a blocked shot from Robbie Tinkler the only chances of note in the opening 45.
The second half was a different story and within five minutes of the restart, the Heed put together their best move of the game so far as Olley almost made a sustained period of pressure pay-off as he drilled a shot just wide of Dover’s left post from 25-yards.
Soon after Rigg showed great composure to bring the ball down and beat his man inside the penalty area but he couldn’t find the finish to match as his 10-yard effort trickled past the right-hand post.
The Heed were on top but struggling to break their hosts down. And once again they had Pears to thank for keeping them in the game with 20-minutes remaining as the 20-year-old stopper denied substitute Bobby-Joe Taylor with a fine diving save before clutching the ball at the second attempt to prevent Alfie Allen tapping in.
As the final 10-minutes approached, the Heed finally grabbed a deserved equaliser as a short corner between Greg Olley and Scott Barrow was forcefully turned in by Kerr as Dover failed to deal with the danger.
It wasn’t the prettiest header in the world but it was no less than the visitors deserved as it set them up for a strong finish to the match.
Tinkler won possession back well on the edge of the Dover penalty area before seeing his deflected strike fly narrowly past the right post as Gateshead pushed for a winner.
And just when the game looked to be finishing 1-1, Tinkler won posession back for the Heed and sprayed the ball forward as Barrow then picked it up, burst down the right wing and put in a teasing ball that agonisingly missed the head of Connor Thomson only to be turned in by Olley from close range.
The 16 travelling fans, the players and the coaching staff went wild as the full-time whistle blew soon after to confirm a huge three points.
It’s three points which take the Heed past the coveted 50 point mark that is said to effectively guarantee safety in the National League – not bad for the ‘relegation favourites’!
Dover (4-3-1-2): Walker, McNamara (Jeffrey), Lokko, Doe, Debayo; Brundle, Nortey (Taylor 66), Lewis; Reason; Allen (Pavey 76), Effiong
Subs not used: Diarra, Modeste
Goals: Lokko (9)
Bookings: Jeffrey (89)
Gateshead (3-5-2): Pears; Kerr, Williamson, Mellish; Tinkler, White, Forbes, Olley, Barrow; Thomson, Rigg
Subs not used: Foden, Hunter, Salkeld, Maloney, Devitt
Goals: Kerr (79), Olley (90+3)
Referee: Savvas Yianni
Attendance: 1,037 (16 Gateshead)