Alfreton Town finally managed to stage a home game on Saturday, after seven and a half weeks of weather-related inactivity at the Impact Arena, but were held to only their second home draw of the season by ten-man Gateshead.
An above-average crowd of 817 witnessed an encounter that seemed to liven up after Phil Turnbull had been sent off for the visitors in the 38th minute, when a crunching tackle on Bradley Wood warranted a second yellow card.
Andrai Jones, on loan from Barnsley, made a promising debut at right back in place of the injured Chris Westwood, while bizarrely midfielder Godfrey Poku was making his first start in front of home fans since playing the first of five away games back on January 4 at Barnet.
It was also striker Shaun Harrad’s first opportunity to play on home soil, having been at the club already for four weeks since making his debut at Welling.
Harrad appeared to be bundled over by Gateshead skipper Ben Clark on the edge of the area in Alfreton’s first foray in the fourth minute, but no free-kick was forthcoming, then immediately at the other end a Gateshead corner resulted in successive goalmouth clearances by Poku.
Job Ayo Akinde’s ninth minute effort was charged down before Josh Law fired inches wide of the back post, then when Akinde’s legal challenge left visiting keeper Adam Bartlett flattened Harrad snatched at the loose ball without realising that he had time and an open goal at his mercy.
A lull in proceedings was punctuated by Dan Bradley’s 25th minute pass that sent Akinde racing into the area, but his cross was wasted by Law, then Bradley fired over from 20 yards after Poku had laid back a Law corner.
Bradley played a neat one-two with Jones before seeing his shot diverted off a defender for a corner, then two minutes after Turnbull’s dismissal Gateshead were presented with a clear chance when Nick Fenton’s error let in James Marwood.
However after a moment of deliberation by the surprised Marwood, keeper Jon Worsnop was able to pounce and palm the ball away from danger, although a fraction either way could have resulted in a red card and an outfield player facing a penalty.
In response Akinde dispossessed James Curtis 25 yards from goal, only to fire just wide, then as play swung back in Gateshead’s favour Michael Wylde had to tackle back accurately to halt Marcus Maddison’s progress into the area.
In first half stoppage time Harrad was sent through by Wood, with Bartlett pulling off a fine save, but six minutes after the break the Tynesiders nudged ahead after a corner had not been cleared.
Moments earlier Fenton had to turn the ball behind after John Oster’s raking cross had posed a threat, but following the setpiece Curtis crossed from the right for Maddison to arrow a header into the corner of the net to give Gateshead a 51st minute advantage.
Franklin sent Akinde to the by-line as Alfreton relentlessly sought an equaliser, with Bartlett smothering the shot at his near post, but a goal was on the horizon and stemmed from Worsnop’s clearance in the 71st minute.
The ball reached Akinde on the halfway line and he quickly played sub Tom Shaw through for his seventh goal of the season, his shot from the edge of the area taking a nick off the flailing Bartlett en route into the net.