By Rory Drake
Gateshead battled hard, but Jon Mellish’s goal at the start of the second half wasn’t enough as the Heed fell to a 2-1 defeat at Rochdale.
Rochdale took the lead midway through the half in fortuitous circumstances, with Jon Mellish turning the ball into his own net. And it was 2-0 minutes later, with Ian Henderson scoring his 100th goal for Rochdale.
Mellish made up for his error early in the second half, pulling a goal back for Gateshead. The Heed created plenty of chances to level the tie, but just couldn’t find the finish they arguably deserved.
Steve Watson reverted back to the more familiar 3-5-2, after playing 4-3-3 at Wrexham last weekend and Gateshead’s performance was much improved.
There were a lot of half chances early on, but neither keeper was really tested until 19 minutes in, when Scott Barrow won the ball 35 yards from goal, worked his way past a couple of players, played a one-two with Greg Olley before firing a low shot that Brendan Moore kept out.
Moments later, Boden brought the ball down the box and played it to Armstrong, who fired narrowly wide.
The Heed were made to pay for missed chances in the 21st minute, Rochdale went down the left-hand side and played the ball into the box to Matt Done whose low cross was turned past Aynsley Pears by Mellish.
Two minutes later, the League One side doubled their lead in very similar fashion. Brad Inman’s cross from the left found Henderson unmarked at the far post who tapped into an empty net.
Gateshead nearly pulled a goal back immediately, Olley went forward and shot from the edge of the box but fired just wide at the near post.
Gateshead were gifted an opportunity to pull a goal back in the 32nd minute, a miss-kick from Brendan Moore saw the ball drop to Luke Armstrong, but the Boro-loanee’s shot was saved by Moore.
Scott Boden went close minutes later, a beautiful lofted ball forward from Olley found Boden on the edge of the box, but his shot just missed the target.
Rochdale nearly added a third in the 37th minute, Callum Camps tried his luck from 25 yards, but his effort was straight at Pears.
Gateshead were unfortunate to be two goals down, having come close on numerous occasions, but again wasted an opportunity when Boden tried to lob the keeper, but Moore was alert and dealt with it.
The Heed pulled a goal back with the first opportunity of the second half, but the goal came from an unlikely source.
Mellish drove forward and worked his way into the box via a one-two with Olley, Mellish then fired a high effort which went in despite Moore’s best attempts to save it.
Gateshead then came agonisingly close to an equaliser, Robbie Tinkler played a ball forward which Boden flicked into the path of Olley. Olley chipped the keeper and looked to have levelled the tie, but the ball went just over the bar.
Gateshead came close again to equalising after 75 minutes, Rigg, who’d only just come on, played a ball in front of Armstrong but he couldn’t get on the end of it.
The Heed didn’t give up, and with two minutes to go Rigg came inches away from an equaliser. Rigg cut in from the left hand side, found space on the edge of the box and fired a curling effort just wide of the post.
Rochdale: Moore; Rafferty, Delaney, McGahey, Hart; Henderson, Camps, Dooley; Inman (Clough 89’), Jordan Williams (Perkins 76’), Done (Andrew 55’)
Unused subs: Lillis, MJ Williams, Wilbraham, Adshead
Goals: Mellish O.G. (21), Henderson (23)
Bookings: McGahey (31), Inman (85)
Gateshead: Pears; Kerr, Williamson, Mellish; Tinkler, Hunter (Molyneux 65’), Olley, White, Barrow; Armstrong, Boden (Rigg 74’)
Unused subs: Foden, Thomson, O’Donnell, Forbes, Devitt
Goals: Mellish (49)
Referee: Peter Wright
MOTM: Mike Williamson
Attendance: 2,415 (275 Gateshead)