Gateshead 1-0 Curzon Ashton: The Heed narrowly defeat unlucky Nash
Above: JJ O'Donnell is tackled by Dale Whitman in the Curzon Ashton box (Photo via Gateshead FC Twitter)

Claims from Gateshead danger man Nicky Deverdics before the visit of Curzon Ashton suggested that the Heed were hungry for a win and determined to start backing that up- and back that up they did.

Curzon Ashton had never defeated the Tynesiders, having lost 3-0 and 1-0 in their only ever two meetings, which both came last season, however before the game Steve Cunningham's side had gained two more points than there counter parts and were quietly confident travelling up north. 

  • Story of the match

Gateshead lined up in a 5-4-1 formation, with former Forest Green Rovers goalkeeper James Montgomery between the sticks, ahead of him sat Nathan Dale, Alex Nicholson and Jake Cooper. On either wing-back were Kal Griffiths on the right side and Danny Greenfield on the left, with a midfield trio of JJ O'Donnell, Dan Ward and Nicky Deverdics. At the tip of the diamond was danger man Greg Olley, who would be utilised in his perfected no.10 role. Up top was an isolated Macauley Langstaff, ready to be the spearhead of the attack. 

The away side lined up in a traditional 4-4-2 formation, with Cameron Mason protecting the net, defended by a flat back four consisting of Craig Mahon, Matthew Waters, Noah Stokes and Douglas Tharme. Curzon's midfield was controlled by Paul Turnbull alongside Robert Evans, with Dale Whitham and Connor Hughes providing the firepower on the wings. They would be supplying to former Tranmere Rovers attacker Darren Stephenson and the in-form Dominic Knowles up top, who had already scored on five occasions this campaign. 

Following a minutes silence to remember those who gave their lives for our future, referee James Westgate called for Gateshead to get the game underway.

The Heed dominated the opening stages of the game, with Olley looking bright and hungry for the ball, even testing Mason in goal with a teasing corner in the opening minutes.

As Curzon Ashton looked to withstand the early pressure from Gateshead, a strong header fell into the path of Knowles up top, who flicked into the path of Hughes and the former Oldham man fired a ferocious 25 yard half volley that was stung the gloves of Montgomery.

Gateshead were having a frustrating opening 15 minutes of play, some strong defending from the like of Dale and Cooper prevented Curzon from penetrating the defence, but going forward the Heed, were thrashing every cross out for a goal kick, or the final ball was wayward and trickling through to Mason.

Montgomery once again came at the aid of his side, as a poke forward from Turnbull was being chased by Knowles, but the experienced goalkeeper knew to leave his box and clear any potential threat.

Frustrations began to show even more from the Heed, as a rash challenge from Griffiths lead to a booking for the defender, before Deverdics fouled Whitham on the half-way line. Gateshead looked on top, just unable to test Mason so far. 

A fantastic ball by Greenfield was brought down expertly by former Hull prospect Olley, but he was called offside by Westgate before he could get his shot off. 

Olley looked to spark some life into a very weary game once again, as a ball from Deverdics found his feet. The 24 year old cut inside his man and produced a teasing cross-shot, but a lack of pressure meant Mason could easily hold onto the ball.

As referee Westgate called the first half to an abrupt close, neither manager could have been pleased with their teams performance. A very dreary game that only had one shot worth remembering in it's opening 45, which came in the 5th minute. 

With the players returning to the field 15 minutes later, those who were lucky enough to be in attendance were hoping for a bit more flare and excitement in the second half- and that they got!

There was a singular change at the break, as Dan Ward, who had been relatively quiet in the first 45 minutes, was replaced by former Grimsby and Luton Town attacker Jordan Cook.

Curzon Ashton had an immediate opportunity, as a free-kick from just inside the Gateshead half by Stokes was met by the head of Tharme, who's cross-shot stuck the post and the follow up by Stephenson was somehow flared over the bar to the Nash's dismay. 

Gateshead were eager themselves too, as a ball sent down the line by Griffiths fell to the feet of Longstaff, who found himself with a bit of time and at a difficult angle but his attempt was smuggled by Mason.

However the early pressure paid off, as Longstaff, who had looked threatening down he wing, delivered a fantastic pull back across goal to the feet of substitute Cook, who had broken free of his man and was left unmarked and, with time on side, comfortably slammed the ball low past Mason.

The Heed had found their stride, as the home side began to dominate the ball and hold onto possession. Longstaff continued to terrorise Waters, using his pace and getting in behind his man, but this time his low cross was comfortably dealt with by the outstretched leg of Stokes.

Some nice foot work down the left side from Cook, who had been influential since entering the pitch, allowed Olley to find space within the box, and his ball to the edge was fired over by Deverdics from 20 yards who was left ruing his chance. 

A free-kick from 35 yards out was delivered towards the back post by Waters, and it was volleyed back across goal by Stephenson but the referee deemed play offside. 

66 minutes in and Gateshead made their second change of the afternoon, as Longstaff made way for striker Ruairi Keating.

Curzon Ashton opted to make not one, not two, but a triple change of their own, as debutant Jacob Hanson made his way onto the pitch, after signing the same day, for Evans, Whitham made way for Alex Curran and finally Mahon as replaced by Jude Oyibo.

The Nash looked for an immediate impact, as Stephenson toyed on the left-wing before hammering a ball into the box, but Nicholson courageously threw his body on the line.

A good spell of play came for Curzon now, as Curran headed over from a corner and Waters sent an appetizing ball towards the back post, but substitute Oyibo couldn't meet it in the air.

Star man Olley had had an astounding game for the Heed, and Williamson, who was perhaps looking to sit on the 1-0, chose to substitute his attacking midfielder for Jack Hunter, who would play a slightly deeper role with the help of cutting out any possibly counter-attacks for Curzon.  

Some terrific play on show by Oyibo as he drove the ball out of his half before laying it off for Water, who patientally waited for the run of team-mate Stephenson and eventually playing a ball down the line into the forward. Stephenson attempted to force his way past his man but was clattered by the on rushing Cooper, who really did have no intention of getting the ball. Unfortunately for the Nash, the resulting free-kick from Turnbull was was squandered as it was parried by Montgomery- another huge opportunity missed.

Gateshead fired back with a free-kick of their own, as a whipped Deverdics cross was inches away from the contact of Keating, which could've killed the game off.

Heading into the closing minutes and Curzon threw everything they had at the game, as an outstanding deep cross was met on the volley by Oyibo and it rattled the woodwork following a Dale deflection before the ball was scrambled out of play.

Substitute Oyibo once again showed his threat, after some silky step-overs threatened the Gateshead defence and he was foolishly taken down on the edge of the box. Turnbull stepped up with the responsibilities, but his effort lacked any real venom and was tipped over the bar by Montgomery, who didn't even have to move. 

The resulting corner was whipped in by Waters, but Turnbull scuffed his header and it was gratefully grasped by Montgomery.

Following three minutes of stoppage time, corners, frantic clearances and frustration for Curzon Ashton, the full time whistle was called by Westgate- Gateshead fortunate winners at the ninety minutes.

  • Takeaways from the match 

Gateshead lacking a striker

Whilst Longstaff had a promising performance up front and at times petrified the Curzon defence, it was very clear it wasn't his natural position. Longstaff is used to playing on the wing, as he often did at York City, and on several occasions drifted out wide and made himself an option travelling down the byline. Yes, this may have worked sometimes and even led to his assist for Cook's goal, but on most occasions he'd be on the wing with the ball and nobody to aim for in the box- which was very frustrating to watch.

Heed fans are begging Williamson to recall Paul Blackett from his loan spell at divisional rivals Blyth Spartans, as the striker has already scored four goals this season. Williamson has the option to do so whenever he desires, so to have a proven goalscorer out on loan when he could potentially be a member of the first team squad seems odd, but nevertheless fans are hungry for Blackett's return- if he does. 

Curzon Ashton showing promise

Despite the fact Curzon have just 5 points out of a possibly 21 so far this season, there team looks very promising. It took them a while to properly get involved in the game, but the likes of Turnbull in midfield and Whitham supplying the goods for Stephenson, who looked as if he had the talent even if he did have an off-day today, and of course Knowles who is in scintillating form. More importantly, Oyibo, who came off of the bench, completely changed the game upon his arrival. The youngster was clearly technically gifted, using flair and skills to take on his men and creating opportunities that Curzon had struggled to produce so far. 

The key part for Curzon going forward is to utilise Knowles' quality. He's been on fire so far, but tonight didn't really get the opportunities to get a clear strike on goal due to a lack of creativity within the team. He's proven and hungry, take advantage of that. 

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