By Jack McGraghan
Gateshead fell to a 2-1 New Year’s Day defeat at the Super 6 Stadium as goals in both halves from Hartlepool ultimately proved enough.
Liam Noble converted his second penalty in two games against the Heed after 6 minutes to hand Pools an immediate advantage.
Gateshead drew level on 61 minutes thanks to Ryan Donaldson’s own goal only for a familiar face to haunt them as ex-Heed midfielder Paddy McLaughlin scored what proved to be the winner five minutes later.
Steve Watson was forced into one change to the side that drew 1-1 against Halifax last Saturday following Luke Armstrong’s return to Middlesbrough, with Connor Thomson replacing the striker.
Gateshead were still without the suspended Tom White in addition to the absences of Aynsley Pears, Elliott Forbes, Scott Barrow and Greg Olley who have been suffering with illnesses and injuries recently.
The Heed looked to attack from the off as they started with a back four and created the first opportunity of the game as Luke Molyneux flicked on to JJ O’Donnell inside the area, but his scuffed shot was cleared from danger.
With only six minutes on the clock however, the referee pointed to the penalty spot for the third time against Hartlepool this season as Mike Williamson brought down Ryan Donaldson right on the edge of the area.
Noble stepped up to the spot having missed his last spot-kick, but made no mistake this time around as he slotted into the bottom-right corner while Foden dived in the opposite direction.
The game remained finely poised despite Pools’ slender lead however, and Robbie Tinkler came centimetres away from restoring parity on 20 minutes when he picked up Molyneux’s cleared corner before firing a left-footed strike off the bar from 25 yards.
The hosts had chances of their own although they didn’t create anything clear-cut with Ryan Donaldson and James both seeing efforts from outside the box sail wide and saved by Mark Foden respectively.
The Heed continued to inch closer to goal as the half wore on and could have drawn level twice.
Tinkler’s lofted ball beat the defensive line but just evaded Scott Boden inside the area, before Thomson’s right-sided cross almost crept in at the back post as Scott Loach backtracked to tip wide.
Five minutes after the restart, a golden chance arrived for Gateshead to draw themselves level as Steve Rigg’s flick from an O’Donnell cross was parried into the path of Boden, but the forward could only fire over from close range.
Just after the hour mark however, the Heed found their way back into the game through Molyneux’s curling free-kick, which Anderson headed past his own goalkeeper in a crowd of bodies to level things up.
Unfortunately the scoreline stayed that way for only five minutes, as substitute McLaughlin received Nike Muir’s ball inside the area before rolling through Foden’s legs to restore Pools’ lead.
The Heed pushed on in search of a second equaliser immediately with Thomson sending a half-volley over the bar from 20 yards before Fraser Kerr headed a Molyneux free-kick over.
Despite Gateshead’s best efforts, the hosts were able to hold on for all three points in a reverse of Boxing Day’s result.
Hartlepool (4-3-3): Loach; Richardson (Kioso, 45’), Magnay, Anderson, Kitching; Featherstone, Noble (c), Hawkes (McLaughlin, 60’); Donaldson, Muir, James.
Subs not used: Catterick, Butler, Scott.
Goals: Noble (7’) (pen), McLaughlin (66’)
Bookings: Kitching (87’)
Gateshead (3-4-1-2): Foden; Kerr, Williamson, Mellish; Thomson, Tinkler (c), Hunter (McGeoch, 84’), Molyneux, O’Donnell (Salkeld, 71’); Rigg, Boden.
Subs not used: Devitt, Lumsden.
Goals: Donaldson (OG) (61’)
Bookings: Tinkler (57’), Salkeld (76’)
Referee: Daniel Middleton
Attendance: 3,468 (426 Gateshead)
MOTM: Robbie Tinkler