By Dominic Scurr
GATESHEAD’S nine game unbeaten run in the Vanarama National League came to a grinding halt as Woking won 3-0 thanks to a hat-trick by Chigozie Ugwu at Kingfields Stadium.
After a promising opening few minutes by the Heed, the home side opened the scoring against the run of play as some great work down the right flank by Caprice allowed the Cards’ full-back to pick out Ugwu who headed calmly past Heed stopper Dan Hanford and into the bottom right corner from close range.
At the other end, the recently potent strike force of Danny Johnson and Sam Jones were struggling to cause a notoriously leaky Woking defence much trouble – a tame effort from Jones around the quarter-hour mark being the Tynesiders’ first shot on target in the match.
Fabio Saraiva then had two golden opportunities to double the Cardinals’ lead as his cross-cum-shot almost snuck in at the far post just moments before the midfielder found himself clean through on goal but decided to square the ball to Kieran Murtagh, who couldn’t quite connect with the overhit pass. It was a big let-off for the visitors.
And just a couple of minutes later Woking were at it again as Ugwu unleashed a fierce shot from the right side of the Gateshead box but Hanford did brilliantly to tip it wide and keep the score at just 1-0.
Woking would have felt hard done by not to be more than just a goal up at this point but they almost found themselves going in level at half-time as the ball deflected off Wes Atkinson and into the path of Danny Johnson but the in-from forward – who had scored seven goals in six matches before today – was denied by the left post.
The half-time whistle soon came and changes were certainly in order for Gateshead as Wes York was brought into the fray after the break with the hope of injecting more attacking impetus to the the Heed’s performance.
But 12 minutes after the restart Woking doubled their lead in rather fortuitous fashion as Hanford came rushing out to collect a back-pass but failed to gather the ball before it fell nicely to Ugwu, who stroked home his second of the afternoon.
Tynesiders’ captain Liam Hogan was back on the line but failed to prevent the Woking forward’s well-placed strike from finding the net.
At 2-0 down, Neil Aspin’s side had a mountain to climb even though they had managed to claw back a two goal deficit the past two times they had trailed by that margin.
And good chances for Jamal Fyfield and Johnson in quick succession may have offered some sign of encouragement but that was quickly quelled as Ugwu soon made it 3-0.
Unfortunately for Gateshead, it was another defensive mix-up as Paddy McLaughlin’s header was quickly pounced upon by the Cardinals’ frontman who chipped the ball over an onrushing Hanford for his hat-trick.
3-0 down and 15 minutes to play, the game was effectively over for Gateshead but to their credit they managed to peg the hosts back in the final moments despite not creating any clear cut opportunities.
So 3-0 was how it finished which leaves Gateshead eight points off the final play-off place while Woking climb to 19th after a deserved victory.
Next up for the Heed is a tricky match at home to Tranmere Rovers on Tuesday night.
Gateshead (5-3-2): Hanford; Atkinson (York 46), Hogan (c), M. Smith, Bolton, Fyfield; Brundle, Penn, McLaughlin; Jones, D. Johnson
Subs not used: S. Johnson, G. Smith, Mafuta, Hannant
Woking: Hall, Caprice, J. Jones (Sam-Yorke 85), Saah, Yakubu (c), Murtagh (Sutherland 46), Ugwu, Saraiva, Lewis (Edgar 53), Thomas, Shaw
Subs not used: Poke, Kandi
Goals: Woking – Ugwu (8, 57, 72); Gateshead – none
Referee: Dean Treleaven
Bookings: Woking – J. Jones (20), Caprice (78); Gateshead – Fyfield (67), Hogan (73)
Attendance: 1062 (14 Gateshead)
(Photography: David Holmes)