By Dominic Scurr
GATESHEAD opened their National League campaign in style as they cruised to a 3-1 away win at Maidenhead United.
Debut goals for Greg Olley, Scott Boden and Luke Armstrong put the Heed into a commanding position by the hour mark at York Road before a late Fraser Kerr own goal denied Steve Watson’s side what would have been a deserved clean sheet.
The win saw Watson and Gateshead continue their fine streak against The Magpies as they’ve won all three meetings, scoring 13 and conceding two in the process.
As the game kicked-off, it was Maidenhead who tried to get onto the front foot as they quickly conjured up a good goalscoring chance when a deep ball over the top of the Gateshead back-line fell nicely to the feet of Harold Odametey on the edge of the six-yard box. The Maidenhead number four attempted to get a shot away but was well blocked by a quick to react Aynsley Pears in the Heed goal.
With seven minutes on the clock, the Tynesiders created their first chance of note when Connor Thomson clipped a nicely weighted ball through to Armstrong who was able to get an angled shot away from the right which prompted a good save from host keeper Carl Pentney.
10-minutes later the visitors continued to threaten as JJ O’Donnell’s cross from the left forced Maidenhead’s Max Kilman to head the ball out for a Gateshead corner.
O’Donnell’s resulting set-piece proved too much to handle for Maidenhead as they failed to clear the danger. The ball ended up falling kindly to Olley in space 15-yards from goal – the 22-year-old midfielder opted to clip the ball delicately over a crowded penalty area, deceiving everyone and seeing it sail wonderfully into the top left corner of the goal to give the Heed the lead.
And after an eventful opening quarter-hour or so, the sweltering 30-degree conditions at York Road started to take its toll as the half wore on as both sides struggled to create any meaningful chances prior to the break as Gateshead lead 1-0.
Just like the majority of the first half action seemed to happen in the opening stages, the same occurred in the second half as another Gateshead corner from O’Donnell proved troublesome for the Maidenhead defence as it deflected nicely for Boden to poke home at the far left post and double the visitors’ lead.
The Tynesiders won 3-0 at York Road last season and with 55-minutes played they had already equalled that scoreline as Armstrong showed great tenacity to nick the ball from Ayo Obileye inside the Maidenhead half and charge toward goal. The Boro loanee found himself one on one with Pentney and composed himself well to slot the ball calmly to the left of the Magpies’ stopper and into the bottom corner.
The Heed Army, who had been in fine voice all afternoon, were in dreamland. The 1,264 crowd, 1,200 or so made up of Maidenhead fans, were audibly dominated by the vocals of the 52 travelling Gateshead supporters as their side looked to be strolling towards a comfortable three points.
Still, Watson’s side had to stay alert as Pears was forced to make another fine save from close range, this time denying Josh Kelly.
Some timely Gateshead substitutions helped the visitors see the game out well as a wasted Ryan Bird header from Kilman’s cross was the closest Maidenhead came to threatening prior to the 90th minute.
At 3-0 Gateshead looked focused on seeing the game out in a professional manner, being sensible in possession and not taking too many risks in search of a fourth goal.
Tom White and Elliot Forbes, Gateshead College graduates both making their full National League debuts at the heart of the Heed midfield proved difficult for Maidenhead to contain while captain for the day Robbie Tinkler dictated things well from the back alongside Kerr and Jon Mellish.
And just as though it looked like they were going to claim another 3-0 triumph at York Road, a low stoppage-time corner from James Comley deflected unfortunately off Kerr and found its way into the bottom right corner to make it 3-1.
The late goal may have taken some gloss off the result for Gateshead but they will no doubt be pleased with what was an excellent opening weekend display.
One down, 45 to go!
Maidenhead United: Pentney; Clerima, Obileye, Odametey, Massey (c), Mulley (Owusu 65), Kilman, Comley, Worsfold (Alves 71), Kelly (Clifton 65), Bird
Subs not used: Steer, Smith
Goals: Kerr og (90+2)
Gateshead (3-5-2): Pears; Tinkler, Kerr, Mellish; Thomson, White (Maloney 65), Forbes (Hunter 80), Olley, O’Donnell; Boden (Salkeld 90), Armstrong
Subs not used: Foden, Devitt
Goals: Olley (17), Boden (48), Armstrong (55)
Bookings: Forbes (31)
Referee: Lloyd Wood
Attendance: 1,264 (52 Gateshead)
MOTM: Robbie Tinkler