Hebburn Town’s dreams of securing passage into the FA Cup First Round proper were thwarted by a professional performance by Gateshead at the International Stadium on Saturday afternoon. In what would have been one of the biggest giant killing acts in the long history of the famous competition, Hebburn failed to find that extra gear they needed to win; yet despite defeat, there was no embarrassment for the Northern League Division Two minnows.
Hebburn boss Paul Bennett had called for his team to have “patience…believe in yourself” before the game and for 45 minutes this is what his players showed in abundance as they frustrated the professional out from along the River Tyne.
Despite Gateshead having the majority of possession, the Hebburn ‘keeper, Dan Regan, was largely untested during the opening period. Much of this was down to the central defensive pairing of Jeff Forsyth and captain Chris Jewels, who celebrated his birthday by turning in a man-of-the-match performance. Whenever Gateshead looked like getting a strike on target, the centre-backs put their bodies on the line to hurl themselves at the ball, producing a number of blocks and clearing headers.
In midfield, the part-timers struggled to gain momentum as Gateshead harried them, and the tactics of getting the ball up to forward Liam McBryde, with support coming from Tony Stephenson and the Nicholsons, Dean and Stuart out wide, couldn’t get started due to the quality of the home side. Hebburn had their first effort at goal after nine minutes when McBryde cushioned a chest down into the path of Dean Nicholson, but his long range effort flew over the bar. It would then take another 78 minutes before they were presented with another good chance as the same player cushioned a Chris Lunn cross just beyond Heed ‘keeper Jak Alnwick and, frustratingly for the brave visitors and their impressive away following, also the far post.
Between these efforts, Gateshead had already scored three times. After a spirited start to the second half, Gateshead’s class started to show and their controlled possession brought the opening goal of the game after 53 minutes. A deep cross from Craig Baxter dropped between ‘keeper and his defence and right on the forehead of danger-man Jon Shaw, who cushioned a header beyond Regan to make it 17 goals in 18 games this season.
Eight minutes later and it was game over as a Martin Brittain cross was hit towards goal by Shaw from close six yards out. Regan pulled off a great stop to block the ball but it fell straight back to Shaw who picked his spot to grab his second of the game and make it a goal-a-game this term.
Minutes later Paul Gardiner, who worked hard all game, had a half-chance from Hebburn’s only corner of the game, but when the ball fortuitously dropped at his feet in the box, he snatched at the chance and watched as the ball bobbled wide.
With Hebburn’s fitness and belief draining, ex-Northern League player Nathan Fisher capped an impressive cameo from the bench when he collected a short corner on the edge of the box and curled a shot across Regan into the far corner to wrap up the scoring for the day.
Next up for Hebburn is another Cup match, this time against West Allotment Celtic in the League Cup. For Gateshead there’s the small matter of local rivals Blyth Spartans in the next round of the FA Cup, should their neighbours dispose of Droylsden in their replay. The FA Cup dream may be over for Town, but their heads are held high and the real work of clinching promotion can now start in earnest.
Alnwick, Baxter, Carruthers, Gate, Curtis (Clark 65), Henderson, Brittain, Turnbull (Nix 73), Shaw, Odubade, Rents (Fisher 62)
Subs (not used): Farman (gk), Cummins, Moyes, Briggs
Goals: Shaw (53, 61), Fisher (71)
Regan, Forster, Wright, King (Tate 75), Forsyth (Toomey 79), Jewels, Stephenson (Lunn 68), Gardiner, McBryde, S.Nicholson, D.Nicholson
Subs (not used): Harrison, Walker, Bamborough, Hunter
Referee: Darren Handley (Bolton)
Ian Bogie – Gateshead Manager
“It was a comprehensive victory and, to be fair, it should’ve been a lot more but for poor finishing. We’re delighted with the victory; it was a no-win situation for us as we were expected to win today, 4-0, 5-0, 6-0…we’ve won the game 3-0; we’ve kept a clean sheet and we’re in the draw for the next round, which is the most important thing.
The FA Cup is all about trying to progress and in an ideal world, we would want another opponent on our home patch, who are from a lower league, as we’re always looking to progress, but we’ll see what the draw brings. It’s a great opportunity and if we attract one of the big boys, like Sheffield United, Sheffield Wednesday, Huddersfield Town, Preston North End, then that would be an opportunity for our lads to pit their wits against quality players in what may be a televised game. But who knows; what the draw brings, we don’t know but we’re looking forward to it. We’ll see what tomorrow brings.” (Ed – It’s brought Blyth, I doubt they’re overly happy with that!)
Paul Bennett – Hebburn Town Manager
“0-0 at half-time was probably a deserved scoreline. The first goal was going to be massive and when they scored the first one, you could see players draining physically. We’ll take 3-0. We’ve been on a great journey so far and we’ll start all over again next year.
We were set up to frustrate them and neither side had what I would call a clear-cut chance in the first half. We wanted to frustrate them and maybe nick one if they did something daft. That first goal was always going to be important. If we’d got it, it would have lifted us up but we knew if they got one it would be difficult. I’m proud of every single one of the players.”
Andrew Wood – Hebburn Town Assistant Manager
“We would’ve taken 0-0 at half-time before the game started. The lads were fantastic during the first half; we matched them in every department. Unfortunately, we came out for the second half and conceded a goal so early and then it was going to be very difficult for us to get back into the game. The fitness and quality came through in the end and Gateshead went through as rightful winners.
I did think when we went in at 0-0 that we might get a draw, or even sneak something, but when you concede a goal against a team of the quality of Gateshead then it’s very difficult to lift your levels of fitness to get back into the game. It was a fantastic experience and the lads did well.
Proud would be an understatement for how I feel about the lads today. There was always going to be a gulf in class, which proved in the second half, but we’ve got such team spirit in this club, such togetherness.”
Andy Hudson at Gateshead International Stadium.
Words: Andy Hudson. For more on Northern League, visit Andy’s world-wide-website Gannin’ Away – and for Swedish football at Blagul Fotboll.
Photos courtesy of Simon Barclay at SB Photography, Twitter @sbsportsphoto.