By Jonathan Corrall
GATESHEAD were held to a 1-1 draw at home to play-off rivals Aldershot Town in the Vanarama National League.
It was Aldershot who started the better of the two teams with an almost immediate chance from kick- off, Fenelon making a good run down the right hand side and sending a dangerous curling ball across the face of goal which ghosted through the Gateshead defence.
Gateshead struggled to get the ball out of their own half in the opening ten minutes with The Shots keeping possession well, but it was The Heed who would have the first real chance of the game.
After intercepting an Aldershot pass, Bolton sent a long ball up to the right wing, which after a misjudged leap from Straker allowed Brundle to run in behind and cut a pass back to Jones who shot just wide of the left hand corner.
The opening minutes turned into a fairly physical affair soon after, which was to become a running theme for the rest of the first half, with Mafuta committing two midfield fouls during Aldershot counter attacks and Hogan then being fouled on the right hand side by Straker.
The resulting free-kick for Gateshead saw Fyfield try an audacious curling shot which sailed wide. Gateshead then started to make progress in the opposition half down the left hand side with Fyfield and York, eventually winning a corner.
A dangerous ball from Brundle to the back post was only just headed wide by Bolton, but the referee had already blown his whistle for an Aldershot free-kick after a scuffle in the box.
Aldershot soon made their early possession count with a fast paced counter attack, with Fenelon again crossing from the right hand side, Gateshead’s defence managing to clear over the bar.
The referee also made his first booking of the game for Bolton after he committed another midfield foul on Mensah in the build-up. The Shots were soon mounting attack after attack and really should have taken the lead after Kanu escaped Fyfield on the right wing and cut back to Fenelon who somehow dragged his shot wide from 10 yards with Hanford nowhere and the goal at his mercy.
Aldershot continued to find plenty of space on the right hand side, another cross sent dangerously low across the box, this time from Alexander who found Rendell in the box, his shot well-blocked by Smith.
A goal seemed to be on the cards for Aldershot but Gateshead continued to deal with the pressure well, with some more key blocks from Hogan and Smith.
After intercepting a through ball from Rendell, The Heed were soon able to launch an attack of their own, McLaughlin taking a speculative shot from distance which Cole parried out for a corner.
Despite having been on the back foot for most of the first half, it was Gateshead who drew first blood from the resulting set piece. A good delivery from York saw Burrows leap high above the Aldershot defence and fire a glancing header past a helpless Cole to take the lead in the 35th minute.
Gateshead seemed to take plenty of confidence from the goal, Burrow again finding a cross from the wing soon after, this time his header safely caught by Cole.
After recovering from the goal Aldershot looked to regain composure in the game and again began to pose a threat with their quick passing from midfield. It wasn’t long before a well-timed through ball from Gallagher finally slipped through to Rendell, who made no mistake with his first proper chance of the game, slotting the ball into the bottom right corner past Hanford.
Having gotten their deserved equaliser, The Shots really began to pile on the pressure just before the break. First with a deflected shot from Mensah, and then another later from Rendell, The Heed centre-backs again making some key interceptions.
The first half ended with a powerful edge of the box-effort from Fenelon which was denied with a good save by Hanford after it appeared to be finding the top left corner, Gateshead doing well to be heading into the tunnel with the scores level.
The second half started well for both teams with a chance at each end. The first a looping free kick into the box from Gateshead, misjudged by Conroy, but unpunished by an onrushing Jones Aldershot immediately answered back with another opportunity for Rendell, as the ball fell to his feet in the box but his subsequent shot was scooped well over the bar.
Following on from this chance, Aldershot managed to fashion another attempt with Mensah, after he cheekily volleyed the ball from close range, but only finding the side netting.
But the game was seemingly becoming a much more open affair than the first half suggested, Mafuta finding space on the right and fizzing a low strike across the box which was parried by Cole into the path of York. Facing an open goal, the onrushing York somehow managed to scuff the ball over the bar from a chance that was harder to miss than score.
From here the game entered a bit of a lull as both teams continued to try and take advantage of the opponent’s wings and getting nowhere until York was fouled on the left hand side for Gateshead.
The ensuing free kick from Brundle was only half cleared by The Shot’s defence, which allowed McLaughlin to strike the ball on the half volley from 18 yards, only just missing the target.
Gateshead soon began to look the better of the two teams as their wing play began to lead to a string of chances, first another Burrows header glanced wide from a Brundle long-throw and later a burst of pace from York down the left, his cross unable to find Burrows.
But the threat of Aldershot’s midfield remained, Gallagher again sending a neat through ball through the Gateshead defence, this time towards substitute McClure, but Hogan once again came to the rescue for The Heed, with a well-timed challenge intercepting what was sure to be a goal for Aldershot.
Gateshead continued to worry Aldershot with lots of pressure from the wings, but Aldershot posed a real threat on the counter attack, and almost made Gateshead pay for their high pressure with a fast paced break away which found Rendell in space and with time to shoot, his low strike well saved by Hanford.
The final ten minutes proved to be an exciting affair, with both teams creating their best chances of the second half. First a stumble from Bolton allowed Rendell to slip in behind the Gateshead defence and go one-on-one with Hanford, seeing the keeper slightly off his line Rendell attempted the extravagant with a chip, but his tame effort was easily caught by Hanford, the chance wasted.
Gateshead came even closer when just minutes later a corner from Brundle saw Bolton head towards the bottom corner for what looked like a clear goal, but Straker was there to deny off the line, his block then fell to Gateshead substitute Bell whose shot was well saved by Cole.
But in the end both teams failed to make their chances count and after a couple of counter attacks from both sides failed to come to anything, the referee blew the whistle for full time at 1-1.
Gateshead (4-4-2): Hanford, Hogan, M. Smith, Bolton, Fyfield, York, Brundle, Mafuta, McLaughlin, Jones (Bell 72), Burrow
Unused Subs: G. Smith, Johnson, MacDonald, Hannant
Goals: Burrow (36)
Aldershot Town (4-4-2): Cole, Straker, Fenelon (McClure 73), Rendell, Mensah (Giles 82), Alexander, Gallagher, Conroy, Kanu, Benyu, Reynolds
Unused Subs: Evans , Kellermann, M. Smith
Goals: Rendell (41)
Referee: Martin Coy
Bookings: Bolton (17) Mafuta (84)
Attendance: 653 (129 away)
(Photography: Charlie Waugh, Dan Cooke & Neil Smith)