TORQUAY United came back from an indifferent first half, to claim all three points in a stirring comeback at the Gateshead International Stadium.
Player-manager Kevin Nicholson made one change from the defeat against Eastleigh on Monday. Striker Shaun Harrad replaced Andre Wright up front while defender Nathan Smith didn’t even make the substitute's bench as he continued his return from injury.
United’s first half performance, despite a few bright moments, was dominated by Gateshead. The Heed were dangerous right from the opening minutes as United’s box was under pressure from multiple attacks. Courtney Richards had to be alert to block a shot from Patrick McLaughlin from the edge of the 18 yard box.
Shaun Harrad looked like United’s most likely player to create a chance on goal. Gateshead defender James Curtis had to be at his best in a last-ditch challenge to stop Harrad scoring.
United were being stretched at the back and Dan Butler was called upon to put his body on the line to block a Josh Gillies strike that looked to test ‘keeper Bendan Moore. Soon after Gateshead striker Jon Shaw tested Moore once again as he met a corner from Gillies. Moore was equal to it, and he pushed the ball over the bar.
Gateshead then had their first of a number of great opportunities in the first half. Gillies was at it again when his shot was deflected by Angus MacDonald onto United’s post. Danny Johnson was unable to collect the ball as it sprang back from the woodwork.
Harrad was unlucky not to put United into the lead in the 14th minute. Aman Verma found the forward with a high cross but Gateshead ‘keeper Sam Russell stretched to keep out his header.
Gateshead took the lead in the 20th minute when United were caught sleeping in defence. A simple header over United’s backline allowed Jon Shaw to strike from around 12 yards out.
Gateshead ended the 1st half strongly and United benefited from some stout defending, but also a few strokes of luck.
How Gateshead didn’t end the half with a goal, only they will know. Striker Jon Shaw struck United’s woodwork twice just before the half-time whistle. Firstly with a low drive and then from a header from a cross from Danny Johnson.
Player-manager Kevin Nicholson rung the changes at half-time with a double substitution. Danny Racchi and Courtney Richards were replaced by Iffy Allen and Luke Young.
United came out a different team in the 2nd half.
Gateshead, who it could be argued, should have been more than one goal ahead, found it difficult to deal with the changes. Nathan Blissett started to find more space, and more of the ball.
Sam Chaney showed typical quick feet to get away from his man and shoot from just outside Gateshead’s penalty box. The ball went over the bar, but it was an early sign that United had come to terms with the game.
Blissett then cause turmoil inside Gateshead penalty area that resulted in the equalizer. Iffy Allen was on the spot to score from close-range after Blissett’s shot was parried by Gateshead ‘keeper Sam Russell. United didn’t rest on their early 2nd half strike and took the game to Gateshead.
In the 72nd minute Andre Wright ended a determined run with a shot that gave United the lead. The quality of the strike brings Andre right back into player-manager Kevin Nicholson’s plans for the remaining fixtures of the season.
United had to withstand significant pressure in what remained of the 2nd half, without giving Gateshead a clear-cut chance.
Kevin Nicholson’s men move up to 20th position in the National League after earning a valuable three points on the road. Chester FC visit the Launa Windows Stadium this Tuesday in another vital fixture.
Thank you to all of the fans that made the long journey to Gateshead.