By Dominic Scurr
GATESHEAD had their play-off hopes dented as Sutton United came from two goals down to run-out 4-2 winners at the Knights Community Stadium.
A quickfire brace from Greg Olley with goals either side of half-time put the Tynesiders in a commanding position before a Dylan Kearney header, a James Dobson penalty and a late headed double from U’s captain Dean Beckwith saw the hosts come away with the three points.
The defeat sees the Heed miss their chance of bouncing back into the play-off places as they now sit two points behind seventh-placed Eastleigh, who have a game in hand.
After making the journey to South London on the day of the match, Gateshead got off to a positive start as Connor Thomson almost opened the scoring inside the first minute. The forward found himself in space down the right side of the Sutton box before forcing a strong, near post save from U’s keeper Ross Worner with a low angled strike.
With just a few minutes on the clock Jon Mellish came close for Gateshead as well as he wriggled into space 30-yards from the Sutton goal before curling an effort wide of the left post.
At the other end, Aynsley Pears had to be alert when Kearney attempted to turn the ball in at the back post only to be well stopped by the Middlesbrough loanee.
Last weekend, Tom White netted a fine winner from the edge of the box against Barnet at the International Stadium and came close to opening the scoring in similar fashion this afternoon. His right-footed strike curled past Worner only to be denied by the right-hand post.
Otherwise, the first half was an even affair as the sides looked to be heading in at the break goalless until Olley popped up with the goods for Gateshead to break the deadlock in the 44th minute.
The former Newcastle United and Hull City youngster turned Connor Thomson’s low pass in at the back post to finish off a swift counter-attacking move.
Gateshead and Olley then started the second half as they had ended the first as their advantage was doubled. Olley charged into the Sutton penalty area down the right side before calmly slotting the ball into the bottom left corner to make it 2-0 to the visitors with Olley’s eighth goal of the season.
The 23-year-old midfielder came close to claiming his hat-trick minutes later as he poked the ball around Worner to round the keeper but there was just slightly too much on the touch as the ball ran out for a goal-kick.
Right at the other end, the Heed were made to rue the missed chance as Kearney finished off a ruthless attacking move with a close-range header to pull a goal back.
That goal seemed to galvanize the hosts as they quickly got on the front foot and started to push for an equaliser.
After a sustained period of pressure, Sutton drew level from the penalty spot. Scott Barrow was penalised for handball after a strike through a crowd of bodies was adjudged to have hit the Heed skipper before Dobson slotted the ball into the bottom right corner from 12-yards.
Sutton quickly looked far from a side who had been struggling to score goals or win matches of late as they had the momentum and started to push for a winner.
Gateshead still remained a threat as both Olley and White were denied by fine saves from Worner going into the closing stages of the game.
It was then when Sutton really started to turn the screw as they saw a few chances go begging from Kearney and Dale Bennett as they forced a succession of corners.
With four minutes of normal time remaining, Sutton completed their comeback as Beckwith headed home from a corner.
It was a killer blow for the Heed, who had looked comfortable at 2-0 as they looked set to claim another big scalp on the road.
Unfortunately, it wasn’t to be and Beckwith piled on the misery in the last minute with a carbon copy of his first goal as he nodded in Harry Beautyman’s corner to make it 4-2.
Listen to Ben Clark’s reaction following the game…