By Jack McGraghan
Gateshead slipped to a narrow defeat on Bank Holiday Monday as a familiar face handed Halifax all three points at The Shay.
Former Heed striker Jordan Preston struck on the stroke of half-time to put the Shaymen ahead and despite second-half pressure from the visitors, his goal proved enough to see the hosts through.
Steve Watson made a trio of changes from Saturday’s 1-1 draw against Leyton Orient with Cameron Salkeld, Tom White and Scott Boden introduced in favour of Connor Thomson, Lewis Maloney and Steve Rigg.
The hosts gained the upper hand in the game’s early stages with Ben Tomlinson heading wide from 12 yards on the three-minute mark.
Heed stopper Aynsley Pears was called into action for the first time 10 minutes later, diving to his right to tip Dayle Southwell’s volley around his near post.
Halifax defender Nathan Clarke offered a threatening presence from set-pieces and sent two near-identical back-post headers over the crossbar midway through the first half as the hosts edged closer to goal.
Gateshead’s first real chance of the half arrived with 36 minutes on the clock when JJ O’Donnell’s deflected cross looped into the centre of the box, where Scott Boden volleyed towards goal only to see ex-Heed goalkeeper Sam Johnson parry away from danger.
It took another former Tynesider in the form of Preston to break the deadlock on the stroke of half-time, only moments after he turned a Matty Kosylo cross wide of goal.
Kosylo intercepted White’s misplaced pass inside the centre circle and raced towards goal before sending Preston away down the left-wing, where the forward side-footed past Pears and into the far corner to put the hosts in front.
Watson tinkered with the formation at the break and switched to the usual three-at-the-back for the second 45, a change which made a positive impact almost instantly after the restart.
O’Donnell’s left-sided cross found Boden on the penalty spot, and the striker laid off Salkeld on the right side of the box before the latter fizzed the ball inches wide of the far post.
The former Halifax striker seemed the most likely to equalise and came agonisingly close to equalising after 67 minutes as he slid in at the back post and missed Greg Olley’s cross by centimetres.
It wasn’t all one-way traffic however, and the Shaymen reminded Gateshead of that with just over 10 minutes remaining as substitute Jonathan Edwards countered dangerously but fired wide of the mark.
Edwards saw another opportunity to double his side’s lead pass by late on via another counter-attack as Pears raced out to clear and only managed to strike Robbie Tinkler, only for Edwards to take a fraction too long allowing the Heed keeper to get back to his feet and block.
Despite Gateshead dominating for much of the second half, the all-important equaliser eluded them and Halifax held out for three points.
Halifax Town (4-2-3-1): Johnson; Brown (c), Clarke, Tomlinson, Lenighan, Hanson, Skarz, Kosylo, Berrett, Preston, Southwell (Edwards, 69’).
Subs not used: Rowely, Odelusi, McLeod, King.
Goals: Preston (45’)
Gateshead (4-4-2): Pears; Tinkler (c), Kerr, Mellish, O’Donnell; Salkeld (Thomson, 76’), Hunter (Rigg, 64’), Olley, White; Armstrong, Boden.
Subs not used: Foden, Devitt, Forbes.
Bookings: Tinkler (34’), Rigg (78’)
Referee: Peter Gibbons
Attendance: 1,677 (104 Gateshead)