By Jack McGraghan
Gateshead stormed to a convincing win in an eight-goal thriller over Maidenhead United at the International Stadium.
Richard Peniket netted his sixth goal in his last eight starts to put the Heed in front on 22 minutes to open a frantic period in which three goals arrived inside five minutes.
Maidenhead levelled through Jake Hyde’s close-range header three minutes later, before Jamal Fyfield’s first of the season restored the hosts’ lead two minutes afterwards.
Johnson’s second-half hat-trick – his first for Gateshead – followed by Paddy McLaughlin’s low finish and substitute Jordan Burrow’s tap-in ensured the hosts romped to victory.
Steve Watson made two changes following Tuesday’s FA Trophy win over Leyton Orient as Ben Fox and Rees Greenwood replaced Russell Penn and Jordan Preston in midfield.
Both sides posed threats early on with Harry Pritchard cutting inside and firing wide for the Magpies while McLaughlin’s low crosses narrowly missed Gateshead shirts at the other end.
Danny Johnson looked to make it five goals in his last three appearances on 16 minutes after collecting Scott Barrow’s through ball but could only find the side netting from 20 yards.
McLaughlin’s teasing deliveries into the box finally led to a breakthrough midway through the first half as his low cross evaded all but Peniket, who prodded home at the back post to score for his third consecutive game.
The Heed were pegged back almost instantly however through Hyde, who nodded in Pritchard’s header from close-range after several deflections inside the box.
It was Gateshead’s turn to deliver a swift reply next via the unlikely source of Fyfield, who netted for the first time since a 4-0 win over Boreham Wood in April 2017.
McLaughlin’s corner was headed towards goal by Fraser Kerr, whose effort was saved by keeper Carl Pentney on the line only for Fyfield to stab home.
The visitors pressed at the beginning of the second period in search of an equaliser and in similar fashion to the Heed’s first-half chances found no takers following Sam Barratt’s inviting cross.
The fourth goal of the afternoon fell Gateshead’s way and it was Johnson who was on target for the third consecutive game to double the advantage.
The forward had Greenwood to thank as the latter’s first touch took him past Alan Massey before he pulled the ball back for Johnson to finish into an unguarded net.
Johnson bagged his second and the Heed’s fourth with 14 minutes to go, showing his positional awareness to tap Peniket’s header in from McLaughlin’s corner for his sixth goal in three games.
The forward netted his eighth league goal of the season to record his first Gateshead hat-trick three minutes later, capitalising on Max Kilman’s careless back pass before sliding through the legs of Pentney and into the net.
McLaughlin capped off a fine performance to net the sixth goal of the afternoon 80 minutes in, slotting home from eight yards to send the home fans into raptures.
Substitute Burrow got himself in on the act in injury-time as he got on the end of Peniket’s low cross to convert from inside the six-yard box for his sixth league goal of the campaign, completing the rout.
Gateshead (3-5-2): Montgomery; Kerr, Byrne (c) (77’), Fyfield; York (Preston, 68’), Barrow, McLaughlin, Fox, Greenwood (Burrow, 72’); Peniket, Johnson.
Subs not used: Hanford (GK), McNall.
Goals: Peniket (22’), Fyfield (27’), Johnson (59’, 76’, 79’), McLaughlin (81’), Burrow (90’)
Maidenhead United (4-4-2): Pentney; Clerima, Odametey, Massey (c), Barratt (Owusu, 65’), Pritchard, Upward (Smith, 80’), Kilman, Goodman (Osho, 61’), Hyde, Clifton.
Subs not used: Emmanuel, Marks.
Goals: Hyde (25’)
Bookings: Odametey (51’)
Referee: Paul Marsden
Attendance: 581 (70 Maidenhead)
MOTM: Danny Johnson