By Dominic Scurr
GATESHEAD suffered their first defeat of pre-season as a young Newcastle United side won 3-0 at the International Stadium on Saturday afternoon.
Goals from Yasin Ben El-Mhanni, Victor Fernandez and substitute Dan Ward proved to be the difference between the sides as the Heed struggled to deal with Peter Beardsley’s Magpies side for large portions of the match.
And the opening 40 seconds of the game looked to set the tone as Liam Smith found space just inside the Gateshead box before seeing his shot comfortably gathered by goalkeeper James Montgomery.
With just over five minutes on the clock it should have been 1-0 to the visitors as Smith rounded Montgomery but with the angle against him, opted to square the ball across goal to Ivan Toney who half volleyed towards a seemingly open goal only for Heed defender Neill Byrne to heroically head clear and keep the scoreline goalless.
But five minutes later the Magpies XI were in front as Fernandez did well to tee up for Ben El-Mhanni who struck the ball sweetly into the bottom right corner of the goal from 20-yards.
It took almost half and hour for Gateshead to register their first decent effort on goal as Danny Johnson attempted to squeeze an angled header in at the far post but Newcastle stopper Nathan Harker was able to tip the ball around the post.
The chances then dried up slightly until just before half-time as Newcastle doubled their advantage as Fernandez went from provider to goalscorer with a stunning strike from outside the box into the top right corner of the goal.
The half-time whistle soon blew and few could argue that United didn’t deserve their lead at the break given their chances.
But after a slight half-time switch-up which saw a total of eight substitutions, the game had a slightly different dynamic after the restart as Gateshead started to find their feet.
One of those half-time substitutions was Kieran Green, who managed the Tynesiders first shot on target in the second half after he cut inside and hit an edge of the box strike that was gathered by Harker at the second attempt.
However soon after four further substitutes for the away side, Gateshead found themselves three goals down as half-time introduction Ward found space down the right side of the box before slotting past Hanford from close range.
Despite the final goal of the game coming before the hour mark, neither keeper was really tested for the remainder of the game as Newcastle’s youngsters looked to comfortably see the game out.
Still, a dangerous cross from JJ O’Donnell had to be well dealt with to prevent Jon Mellish connecting at the back post and a good run from Richard Peniket forced a corner for Gateshead but there were few shots on goal to speak of.
However in the 85th minute the Heed created their best chance of the match as a astounding back-heel nutmeg from Wes York on the turn helped him find space to cut the ball back across goal. Jordan Burrow was in the right place to connect but his effort could only clip the right post and go out for a goal kick.
And that proved to be the final chance of the game for either side as Gateshead were given somewhat of a reality check two weeks before the National League season is due to get underway.
Next up for them is Darlington on Wednesday evening at the International Stadium where they will be hoping for an improved display.
Gateshead: Mongomery (Hanford 45); Vassell (York 45), Kerr, Byrne, Fyfield (Horsfall 63), Barrow (Mellish 45); Tinkler (White 65), Penn (Green 45), McLaughlin (O’Donnell 65); Johnson (Burrow 45), Preston (Peniket 45)
Newcastle United: Harker (Huuhatanen 70); Williams (Newberry 57), Gillesphey (Cameron 57), Hunter (Spooner 66), Good (O’Connor 45), Findlay (Yarney 57), Ben El-Mhanni (Sangare 66), Barlaser (Bailey 66), Toney (McNall 66), Smith (Charman 57), Fernandez (Ward 45)
Goals: Ben El-Mhanni (11), Fernandez (44), Ward (59)
Referee: Paul Newhouse