By Liam Carson
The Heed got back to winning ways at the International Stadium as Steve Watson’s side secured a 2-0 win over Eastleigh on Saturday afternoon.
Danny Johnson grabbed Gateshead’s first and his 49th for the Heed, just before half-time before Jordan Burrow ensured the win and the Tynesiders’ place next season in the National League.
The battle of the Shay on Tuesday night had left Steve Watson’s side heavily wounded with Jamal Fyfield and skipper Neill Byrne both requiring the medical room after the game.
Watson therefore was forced into two changes before making another two to freshen up the side as Theo Vassell and John Mellish came in for the injured Fyfield and Byrne while, Jordan Preston and Kieran Green came into for Wes York and Richard Peniket.
The game at Halifax however, had strengthened the team’s bond in what has been a tiring and frantic week for the Heed.
The effects of the three long away trips of the last week on the Heed were visible in the opening exchanges, as the defence and midfield struggled to react to Eastleigh’s early pace.
The best opportunity of the opening exchanges did fall to the Heed however, as two of the more fresher faces in the side combined.
Jordan Preston, who was starting his first game of the week, did brilliantly on the right-wing to beat the Spitfires’ defender Michael Green before he whipped a curling ball towards the sprightly Danny Johnson.
The striker, who only returned from injury in Thursday’s draw to Halifax, watched as the Spitfires’ stopper Ross Flitney missed the ball, before the Heed’s top scorer pounced onto the loose ball.
Johnson easily rounded Flitney but the forward then took his shot too quickly and screwed the ball far-wide of what was an open goal.
The opportunity might have been missed but it certainly settled the Heed into the game as they searched for the first win at the International Stadium in a month.
Certainly, Danny Johnson appeared up for the game as he appeared to be at the heart of every Gateshead attack.
The former Cardiff City man was pushing the ball up the field with every touch. Driving at the heart of Eastleigh’s defence.
The striker had two great opportunities to give the Heed as the game moved past the 30-minute mark.
The first was, again, a driving run from the centre of the pitch and as the Spitfires’ defence backtracked, Johnson cracked a fierce effort from 25-yards to which Flitney expertly matched to save.
The forward’s next opportunity was a lot more simple. Russell Penn demonstrated that even at 32, he still packs that bit of flair and skill as his mazy run into the box beat three Eastleigh defenders.
Penn then cut a superb ball across the six-yard box to pick out Johnson who, it seemed, just had to tap the ball into the net. Flitney however, was there again to parry the ball away before Preston scooped the ball over the bar.
Though, Johnson was not to be stopped as his persistence paid off as he put Steve Watson’s side ahead, on the stroke of half-time.
The move started from James Montgomery, who cleared the ball a full 70-yards up the pitch. The ball was then flicked on by Jordan Burrow into the path of the on-running Johnson and with the goal at his mercy, the striker finally got the better of Flitney as he slotted the ball into the corner of the net.
The Heed started the second-half with the same intensity as they finished the first and it took only two minutes to carve their first chance.
All that carving was done by Jordan Preston, who like Johnson, also was showing an abundance of energy.
The winger flew down the right-wing, beating three men before cracking a ferocious effort which smacked off Flintey’s near post.
It demonstrated that the Heed wanted the win after being left frustrated by the lack of wins that their midweek effort had produced.
The effort of Steve Watson’s side however, was rewarded just a few minutes later as Jordan Burrow got a flick on Theo Vassell’s curling cross, to loop the ball over Flitney, doubling Gateshead’s advantage.
A few nervy moments were to follow for the Heed as the tiredness began to set in.
Mark Yeates and Ben Williamson were causing all sorts of bother from Jon Mellish and Fraser Kerr but the pair were working exceptionally well together to keep the Heed’s clean sheet.
Up the other end, the Heed had several chances to extend their lead but a lack of composure was slowing the sides’ progress.
A superb chance opened up for Danny Johnson just 10 minutes from time but the striker could not find the back of the net.
After being released by Paddy McLaughlin, the forward flew into the box and had the goal again at his mercy. The striker however, could not force the ball past Flitney.
In the final few minutes of the game, there was another positive sight for Gateshead as long-serving midfielder JJ O’Donnell came into the action, with the Heed faithful singing their hearts out for the 26-year-old.
Gateshead (4-4-2): Montgomery: Vassell, Kerr, Barrow, Mellish (O’Donnell 89′) Preston, McLaughlin, Penn, Green (Peniket 55′); Johnson, Burrow.
Subs not used: Hanford, York, Greenwood.
Bookings: Preston (13′),
Goals: Johnson (45′), Burrow (53′)
Eastleigh (4-3-3): Flitney; Hoyte, Green, Read (Obileye 46′), Johnson; Broom (Matthews 62′), Miley, Hollands; Yeates, Zebroski (McCallum 66′),Williamson,
Subs not used: Togwell, Wood.
Bookings: Johnson (51′)
Referee: Mr Paul Marsden
Attendance: 612 (Eastleigh 38)
MOTM: Jon Mellish