By Liam Carson
The Heed were left to rue missed early chances as two late strikes from Sutton substitute Tommy Wright condemned Steve Watson to his first league defeat since November.
Gateshead enjoyed a fast paced start at the GIS and saw two attempts on goal from the in-form Luke Hannant inside the first three minutes.
The attacker’s first chance came from a free-kick just under 25-yards from goal but his effort curled inches wide of Sutton’s left-hand post.
Moments later, Hannant surged down the right-wing looking to cause more danger. After cutting into the box, the attacking midfielder struck a fierce effort towards goal but Owen Evans got down quickly in the Sutton goal, to palm the strike away.
The Heed had started the game very brightly and their pressure on the Amber and Chocolates’ back line brought about several chances for Steve Watson’s team.
Just after the 10th minute, Richard Peniket’s determination nearly paid off as he chased down Kieran Green’s long ball. Owen Evans’ rushed off his line and out of his box to meet the ball, but Peniket won the race. The loose ball fell to Luke Hannant who looked immediately to beat ‘keeper Evans, who was in the process of sprinting the 25-yards back to his goal, however, the stopped matched the pace of Hannant’s shot and got down to gather the ball in the nick of time.
The pressure from the Heed however, was not being converted into any significant numerical advantage and that allowed Paul Doswell’s side back into the game.
A nice move from the Sutton attacking regiment nearly produced the opener as Harry Beautyman raced through one-on-one with Dan Hanford however, a superb last-ditch tackle from the skipper Neill Byrne saved the Heed from potentially losing the clean sheet.
Beautyman was in the thick of the action just moments later. After calls for a blatant handball were waved away by referee Mr Paul Marsden, Craig Dundas found space to set Beautyman up with a chance on the half-volley, but his strike was miscued and trickled wide.
The clouds then began to drift over, covering the GIS and it appeared to be clouding the vision of the players as both sides struggled to get any sort of rhythm going as the match neared half-time.
Those clouds opened up during the interval and the rain drenched the pitch, creating the kind of conditions that players relish to play in.
It certainly seemed like that for the Heed anyway who began the second period as they did the first.
Scott Barrow probably saw his name in lights as he nearly opened the scoring within a minute of the second-half starting. The left-back surged forward from his defensive territory and picked up the ball on the half-way line. With Sutton’s defence in retreat, Barrow continued his progress forward before fizzing the ball with his left boot towards the goal however, it bent just left of Evan’s right-hand post.
In the following minute, Wes York made good progress down the right-wing, twisting and turning before firing the ball across the six-yard box – a ball that with just a single touch from any of the onrushing attackers, would have sent the Heed army into delirium.
The rain began to slow in the International Stadium and so did the play on the pitch, as both sides’ saw their ideas begin to dry up.
The Heed were still battling and competing. They were still plucking away at the U’s.
Chances were coming at a premium.
As the game approached the hour mark, a free-kick was whipped in from the right by Luke Hannant but defender Fraser Kerr attempted, what can only be described as, a ‘no-look’ header but his effort looped just over the bar.
An opportunity fell moments later for substitute Jordan Preston but, after finding space, the midfielder could only put his tame effort straight into Evan’s channel.
Against the run of play however, it was Paul Doswell’s side who took the lead.
Defender Louie John was given time on the right-wing to whip in a cross. John’s lobbed pass was met by the head of the unmarked Tommy Wright, who placed his header easily passed Dan Hanford.
Within seven minutes, Wright had doubled his tally and doubled the U’s lead.
Craig Eastmond picked out substitute Wright on the edge of the box and after taking a touch to control the ball, the midfielder lashed a strike into the bottom left-hand corner of the net.
Gateshead(4-3-3): Hanford; Barrow, Byrne, Kerr, Tinkler; Green (Preston 53′), Hannant, Mclaughlin; Peniket, Burrow (Johnson 67′), York
Subs not used: Vassell, Fyfield, Penn.
Bookings: Peniket 89′
Sutton United (4-4-1-1): Evans; A Thomas, Collins, T Thomas, John; Bolarinwa (Taylor 60′), Davis, Eastmond, Coombes (Lafayette 73′) ; Beautyman; Dundas (Wright 64′)
Subs not used: Walton, Downer.
Goals: Wright 74′, 81′
Referee: Paul Marsden
Attendance: 493 (64 Sutton United)
MOTM: Wes York