By Jack McGraghan
Gateshead and Sutton played out a goalless draw at the International Stadium on Saturday afternoon, in a game of few clear-cut chances.
Steve Rigg fired the Heed’s best chance just wide in the opening 45 while substitute Jonah Ayunga passed up the U’s best opportunity in the final 10 minutes.
Steve Watson made a sole change to the side that was narrowly defeated at Rochdale in the Emirates FA Cup last weekend, bringing in Rigg in place of Scott Boden up front.
Both sides took their time in settling into the game early on, with Sutton favouring a long ball approach while the Heed looked to find a way through via creative midfielder Greg Olley.
It was Olley who had the first meaningful attempt of the afternoon 15 minutes in, cutting inside from the left and firing low towards the near-post, but goalkeeper Ross Worner was on hand to parry wide.
The U’s had an opportunity of their own moments later through centre-back-turned-striker Charlie Clough, who headed Harry Beautyman’s corner safely wide of Aynsley Pears’ goal.
Goalscoring chances proved to be few and far between throughout the first half, although Gateshead did create the odd chance with Robbie Tinkler volleying Scott Barrow’s back-post cross just wide.
The biggest chance of the half fell to the hosts just before the half-hour mark, as Tinkler’s ball into the box intended for Jack Hunter instead reached Steve Rigg, who fired a few yards wide on the turn.
Sutton came out of the blocks faster after the restart however, and could have found themselves ahead as Clough connected with another Beautyman set-piece only to be thwarted by Pears.
Chances remained at a premium in the early stages of the second half, although Clough might have found the target with a first-time strike had it not been for Fraser Kerr’s block on the edge of the area.
At the other end the Heed were limited to shots from the edge of the area with Luke Armstrong cutting in from the left and firing over before Barrow saw his first-time striker blocked.
The U’s remained a threat on the counter-attack and perhaps could have taken the lead through substitute Ayunga, who blazed over the bar at the back-post with time on his side.
With the clock ticking into the final 10 minutes, Ayunga had another chance to give the visitors the lead as he made his way into the left-hand side of the box and smashed across goal, only for Jon Mellish to divert wide.
The Heed continued to plug away in search of a late winner, but were unable to find the all-important goalscoring touch despite late efforts from Barrow and Scott Boden as the spoils were shared.
Gateshead (3-5-2): Pears; Kerr, Williamson, Mellish; Barrow (c), Hunter, Olley, White (Molyneux, 65’), Tinkler; Armstrong, Rigg (Boden, 60’).
Subs not used: Foden, Thomson, O’Donnell.
Bookings: Molyneux (90’)
Sutton (4-1-3-2): Worner; Bennett, Thomas, Beckwith, Clough, Collins (c), Bolarinwa (Ayunga, 68’), Brown, Beautyman (Dundas, 78’), Wishart (Drinan, 68’), Taylor.
Subs not used: Davis, Cadogan.
Bookings: Clough (90+2’)
Referee: Daniel Middleton
Attendance: 794 (37 Sutton)
MOTM: Robbie Tinkler