Run and Football 3 Gateshead 1st April 2023

Visiting a ground we know well isn’t the point of the run and football series but it was impossible to miss this FA Trophy Semi-final. I’ve played 5-a-side on the 3G, run 3,000m on the track and Jacob’s thrown the hammer representing Durham in the Inter-counties. The last time I watched football at the International Stadium was over twenty years ago and I can’t even remember who was playing.

Today’s game is an FA Trophy semi-final with the winner progressing to meet either Altrincham or Halifax at Wembley in the final. A bumper crowd is expected with both major North East teams having no game today. Parking in the stadium car parks is free with a few hundred spaces available.

About the teams

Gateshead have an interesting history and were in the football league from 1930 to 1960. The team which appeared in the football league were originally based in South Shields and moved Gateshead due to financial difficulties. After being voted out of the league the club became insolvent and closed in 1973. A new club was lured from South Shields in 1974 but closed in 1977. Immediately a new club was formed and the current Gateshead FC was born. Over the last thirty years the club have alternated between the National League and National League North.

In 2014 Gateshead almost regained their league status a loss 2-1 to Cambridge in the National League play off final preventing promotion to the football league. They reached the FA Cup third round in 2015 for the first time in the club’s history and lost to West Bromwich Albion. By 2019 Gateshead were suspended due to financial irregularities and relegated to National League North returning as champions last season.

Barnet are also a former league club. Founded in 1888 they played at Underhill from 1907 to 2013 before moving to a new stadium, The Hive. After playing in various leagues and winning one FA Amateur Cup in their first 100 years of existence Barnet gained promotion to the Football League in 1991 by winning the Conference title. A brief spell in the third tier was followed by relegation back to the Conference in 2001 and have subsequently been promoted and relegated twice with their last appearance in league two coming to an end in 2018.

Neither club has won the FA Trophy before. Gateshead are 20th in the National League with Barnet in the playoff mix currently in 5th position.

Going for a run

It is Adrian’s turn to choose the route and he’s gone for something similar to the Gateshead10k. From the International Stadium we walk our way to the Tyne and run along the riverbank to Dunston Staiths before turning around and heading back to Gateshead. It is a mixture of regeneration projects, development and other areas that could do with a tidy. In typical Adrian fashion after half a mile he’s unsure of the route and we career down a steep flight of steps like the Keystone Cops in a silent movie. Back on familiar ground we see the new car park Graham Marshall has been project managing and go past the Royal Navy Reserve Office where Adrian once served.

I’d decided not to bring my phone as everyone knows what the Quayside looks like but I regret this as we near Dunston. “I use to live here”, Adrian says proudly. “The one with the purple render on the gable end.” Three of the six houses have purple render and all have a gable. After a few moments of confusion Adrian points to the correct one and we move on. Dunston Staiths is an historic wooden structure which was used to move coal from land to waiting ships. A fire in 2019 severely damaged the staiths and full repairs have yet be be made.

Return to Gateshead Stadium

We retrace our steps taking the correct route this time and arrive back at the stadium with 45 minutes left before kick off. A quick change later and we are queuing outside the Tyne and Wear stand. There is already a decent atmosphere with plenty of Barnet fans up for the game. Gateshead International Stadium is a local authority athletics venue with a football pitch much like those in continental Europe. The capacity of over 11,500 for a club with an average gate of around 1,000 makes it look cavernous and empty. Once inside the two sets of fans try to create a cup tie atmosphere.

Barnet fans in the top tier of the stand opposite wait for kick off

Preparing for kick off

When we get into the ground the stand is filling up fast and we are funneled towards the front rows. Big mistake on our part as the dug outs restrict our view and we will need to stand up every time the ball is in the left half. Adrian follows up his pasty and coffee last week with pie and coffee today. His verdict is the pasty at Barrow was the best he’s had and the pie today doesn’t come close to matching it.

Jacob, Mark and the Run and Football official pastry tester Adrian

First half action

According to the matchday programme Gateshead have 6 players cup tied and other injuries so I’m not expecting much but in a frantic first few minutes Gateshead are on top and the home side are awarded a penalty for handball. This looks the right decision with the defender moving his arm away from his body towards the ball. Referee Scott Oldham has recently given a penalty in the North East in Sunderland a fortnight ago. Adam Campbell scores from the spot and the noise all round us rises a decibel or two.

Gateshead fans celebrate the first goal

Wimbledon scored after 4 minutes last week and still lost but the Heed keep pressing forward. With the opposition defence under pressure several times before Louis Storey converts from a clever short corner routine to make it 2-0 after 25 minutes. Queue pandemonium all around us, no one is daring to sing the song yet but the Gateshead players have half a boot on the hallowed Wembley turf. Elation turns to disbelief as captain Greg Olley tucks in his own rebound to make it 3-0 on 37 minutes. Barnet need to do something quickly and they get one back near the end of the half through giant striker Harry Smith who rises highest to head home a free kick. The home side create more good chances but fail to score, keeper Laurie Walker pulling off some great saves for Barnet to give them some hope. 3-1 to Gateshead at half time. About now I’d starting to feel cold. I’ve left my gloves on the roof of the car and the tracksuit bottoms I picked up are a couple of inches short and my ankles are freezing. I’m wearing the wrong trousers!

Second half

Barnet throw on a couple of substitutes at half time with nothing to lose. Most of the action has been obscured by the dug outs in the first half as Gateshead were in control. In the second half Barnet press and we bob up and down like an inflatable dingy on a choppy sea trying to follow the action. An hour into the game a nasty clash of heads sees Barnet goalscorer Smith on the ground for an extended period of time and not moving whilst being treated by medical staff. After around 8 minutes he is back on his feet with blood pouring from a wound and receives a standing ovation from all corners of the ground(those with spectators in them).

Barnet push Gateshead further and further back with a series of set pieces and other pressure. A rash challenge in the box results in a penalty and Harry Pritchard comfortably makes it 3-2 from the spot. Crowd and players become a little nervous now and we can hear the Barnet fans for the first time. Twelve minutes of injury time is added due to the injury to Smith as Gateshead struggle to get the ball out of their half. On 97 minutes Walker pulls off another excellent save to stop a Gateshead breakaway. Hearbreak for the home fans as Pritchard scores again in the 102nd minute and Barnet draw level. Gateshead the have a dangerous free kick in the 15th minute of injury time but it is blocked by the wall. After a real rollercoaster of a match the scores are tired.

second half action

Penalties

Alf Ramsey told his England players in the 1966 World Cup Final “You’ve won it once. Now you’ll have to go out and win it again”. Gateshead manager Mike Williamson could have used a similar phrase as the match went to penalties. Barnet keeper Walker has a reputation for saving penalties and Gateshead stopper James Montgomery is related to Sunderland 1973 FA Cup hero Jimmy Montgomery. Adrian tells everyone who will listen it is 50 years since 1973 so Montgomery will prevail. After his disastrous prediction last week I’m hoping he is right.

Campbell and Pritchard who both scored from the spot in 90 minutes also easily slot home their efforts in the schootout. Substitute Dan Ward places one in the corner with Walker frustrated he didn’t keep it out. Montgomery guesses right, dives left and saves from Nicke Kabamba, advantage Gateshead. Greg Olley coolly converts and pressure builds on Ryan DeHavilland. Montgomery guesses correctly again and the Heed are almost there. First half goalscorer and man of the match Lewis Storey fires a rocket of a penalty in the net to seal the win. A collective sigh of relief all round and wild celebrations from the underdogs who have reached the national stadium.

Celebrations at the end of the game

A first FA Trophy final for Gateshead and a game against Halifax Town 4 places above them in the league. In the other semi Halifax beat Altrincham on penalties after equalising in the 95th minute. For Gateshead something to look forward to but work has still to be done to avoid relegation. Barnet have only the league to worry about and work towards the consolation of a playoff place.

Review of the day

Both teams were magnificent in their own way and neither keeper deserved to lose. Walker kept Barnet in the game during the 90 minutes and Montgomery’s instincts took over and saved two penalties. As a semi-neutral it was a fantastic game with no stress or worry about a potential place in the final. I’d love Gateshead to have their own ground which would help the club immensely but this seems like an unrealistic ambition at this moment. Good luck to the Heed in the final.

Entry Fee £18 adult £8 under 21’s

Programme £3 full colour 38 pages

Attendance 2,897 including 446 away supporters

Run fun 6/10

Parking availability 9/10

Match entertainment 10/10

Adrian’s pastry index “Not as good as last week”

Gateshead FC website

Run on Strava

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