By Dominic Scurr
GATESHEAD made it four away wins in a row as they secured a 1-0 win against Havant & Waterlooville at Westleigh Park.
Steve Rigg’s second-half header from Scott Barrow’s corner was enough to settle a tight affair near the south coast.
The Heed were dealt a blow prior to kick-off Robbie Tinkler was forced to withdraw from the matchday squad due to illness.
Skipper Scott Barrow was deployed at right wing-back in place of the England C international with JJ O’Donnell coming into the side on the opposite flank as the only change from last weekend’s victory over Dagenham & Redbridge.
It was the hosts who came close early on as Nicke Kabamba teed up Alfie Pavey whose low drive whistled just wide of the right-hand post.
Most of the chances in the opening stages fell to Havant as Kabamba fired wide of the left post before Gateshead goalkeeper Aynsley Pears was called into action to collect Tyler Cordner’s header.
The Heed were backed by a 38 strong travelling support who had made the near 700 mile round trip and were in fine voice despite having to wait until the 32nd minute for a shot on goal from Steve Watson’s side. Rigg’s tame curling effort from 25-yards was comfortably collected by Ben Dudzinski.
Hawks’ debutant Will Wood dragged a shot narrowly wide from outside the Gateshead penalty area as the game remained goalless in the run-up to half-time.
The Tynesiders looked relatively comfortable in the opening 45-minutes without creating any chances of note as the sides went in at 0-0.
After a fairly uneventful first half, the second half at Westleigh Park started with more energy from both sides as the deadlock looked to be broken.
And just 11 minutes into the half, Gateshead took the lead. Moments after seeing his angled strike deflect off the post, Rigg rose highest from the resulting corner to head the Heed into the lead.
It was a simple header from Barrow’s corner which flew straight into the top left side of the goal to make it 1-0.
Now trailing Havant, were forced to attack Gateshead more and started to apply the pressure as they piled bodies forward.
But barring a few near misses, Pears was rarely troubled in goal as the Heed defence stood strong.
Rigg then came close to doubling Gateshead’s lead as his curling effort from the edge of the Havant box was brilliantly tipped over by Dudzinski before it could reach the top left corner.
A few sloppy mistakes at the back from the home side almost saw Gateshead put the game out of sight as Hunter and Rigg picked up loose balls in dangerous areas but couldn’t quite capitalise.
With just a goal in the game, Havant & Waterlooville worked until the final moments to try and earn a point but the well-drilled Gateshead defence dealt with what was thrown at them well as they held on for a 1-0 win.
The victory is Gateshead’s fourth in five matches as Watson’s side moved back up into the play-off places with 29 points from their opening 16 matches.
Havant & Waterlooville XI: Dudzinski; Stock (c), Pavey, Kabamba, Tarbuck, Robinson (Woodford 76), Rose, Wood (Cosgrave 66), Robinson, Cordner, Bradley (Sekajja 61)
Subs not used: Strugnell, Lewis
Gateshead XI: (3-5-2) Pears; Kerr, Williamson, Mellish; Barrow (c), White (Forbes 83), Olley, O’Donnell (Devitt 58); Rigg, Boden
Subs not used: Foden, Molyneux
Goals: Rigg (56)
Bookings: Rigg (76)
Referee: Lloyd Wood
Attendance: 1,250 (38 Gateshead)
MOTM: Steve Rigg