Gateshead will be the first team that we have played this season with any real promotion credentials and this will be a good test of how good we are, or maybe not! They currently sit in third place in the table compared to our fifth but with only one point and four goals difference the gap is negligible. They recently got beat 6-1 at home to Grimsby, so we know they can be beaten, but on their day they are probably the best footballing side in the Conference.
In tandem with their good form they have also seen a rise in crowd figures and these are now up to an average of 1700 compared to previous seasons when they have struggled to get 700 through the doors. I can see no real explanation for this and I doubt it would be down to Newcastle and Sunderland fans deserting their prawn sarnies in droves although if I was a Sunderland fan watching what we did there last season then I too might think that Gateshead is the more exciting option.
We'll be coming into this game on the back of our first win away from home last Saturday, in fact our first goal away from home, when a Jack Byrne goal early in the second half gave us all three points. Up until then it had been a borefest and looked to be heading in the same direction as our two previous away games at Lincoln and Macclesfield. 0-0 draws without much excitement in either game.
The expectant fans thought we might bring in that illusive creative midfielder, to help create some goals, before the transfer window closed last Monday evening but instead we got rid of one, albeit only for a month, when Josh O'Keefe went to Telford on loan. Striker Reece Hales also went out on loan that day, this time to the more humbler Stourbridge FC.
Just a few days before the deadline Gateshead made a possible killing in the transfer market when they sold winger Marcus Madison to the always hovering Peterborough. The former Newcastle Utd trainee has gone to London Road on a four month contract for a reputed fee of £250,000 rising to £500,000 on appearances. He has already made his first one for them in the Johnsons Paint Trophy this week when he played the full game in the 3-2 home defeat to Leyton Orient, scored a goal and was also given the man of the match award.
The Heed also signed a replacement, of kinds, a few days later when Danny Wright signed for them on a free transfer from Forest Green. He had only served one season of his three year contract there but asked to leave due to the lack of burgers.
They'll be without Michael Rankine for the game due to a hamstring injury while will we, hopefully, will be at full strength. Chey Dunkley will be back from his one game suspension following the red card he picked up against Chester and that means that Jamie Grimes, who covered for him so well at Dover, will return to the bench once more.
As mentioned before this game is a designated Non League Day fixture and so, apart from all the things going on such as childrens face painting, free kids books and on the pitch entertainment, there will also be reduced admission of £10 terrace for adults (£14 in the seats) and just a pound for the kids. It would be brilliant to get a bigger gate than usual for this game and even better were we to get a brilliant win and a brilliant three points.
Photo © KHIST
Lewis, Singh, Hodgkiss, Green, Storer, Dunkley, Nicholson, Gowling, Grimes, Williams, Byrne, Obeng, Johnson, Verma, Blissett, Gittings, Gash, Reid, Styche.
Bartlett, Baird, Jones, Wilson, Chandler, Curtis, Clark, Oster, Turnbull, Shaw, Guy, Ramshaw, Brown, Allan, Baxter, Kanda, O'Donnell, Caskey, McDermott, Cummins, Rodman, Wright.
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