Depleted Reds fall to defeat at Gateshead after three late goals

John McGrath was sent off in the second-half.
John McGrath was sent off in the second-half.

Gateshead 3 Alfreton Town 0

A depleted Alfreton side had matched their hosts with an hour played at Gateshead on Saturday, until their Skrill Premier game adopted a familiar pattern with a blatant penalty denied.

Job Ayo Akinde was once again at the heart of the decision, having run on to Dan Meadows’ 60th minute ball down the right before being bundled over by Ben Clark, but referee Simon Bennett waved aside fervent appeals.

And there was worse to come when skipper John McGrath picked up a second yellow card in the 70th minute, some seven minutes after the Reds had fallen behind, and he will now miss next Saturday’s trip to Aldershot alongside suspended Nick Fenton.

Nicky Law’s men arrived at the International Athletics Stadium with only 13 fit players, the squad having been boosted by the loan signing of serial scorer Jake Speight and Bradley Wood opting to ignore the pain barrier and play at the heart of the defence with a broken toe sustained against Chester.

Persistent rain throughout made the surface greasy and both goalkeepers had jittery moments in the opening few minutes.

James Curtis calmly turned Meadows’ driven cross back to his keeper in the 13th minute, then at the other end Atkins confidently held a 25 yard rasper from Colin Larkin.

Then Wood had to touch the ball behind after Larkin’s free-kick had been parried by Atkins and had fallen invitingly to Josh Walker six yards out.

Atkins held a weak James Marwood shot two minutes later, while McGrath dragged his effort wide from 18 yards and then a stretching Akinde almost connected with Bradley’s deep cross at the back post after Meadows’ ball down the right had triggered what was probably Alfreton’s best move of the game.

The last chance of the first half fell to Gateshead’s Walker, who blazed over from Larkin’s cross, but just 20 seconds after the restart Speight went close to scoring for the Reds from another Bradley cross.

Atkins could only punch Larkin’s 55th minute free-kick as far as John Oster who drew groans from the home contingent by heading wide, then Bradley’s downward header three minutes later from a long Connor Franklin throw was held by Bartlett.

McGrath’s low drive was held by Bartlett, then Gateshead took a 63rd minute lead when Marwood’s cross from the left skimmed off Wood’s head to deceive Atkins, who could only palm the ball to Larkin for a volley from ten yards.

After McGrath’s sending off it was pretty much one-way traffic after that as the Tynesiders turned the screw.

The second goal arrived on 78 minutes, with another Marwood cross from the left being lashed home by sub Jordan Hugill, then five minutes later Hugill struck again with a simple header from ten yards in receipt of a Larkin cross to seal the win.