WREXHAM 3 GATESHEAD 1 Reality check for Watson as Dragons roar
GATESHEAD will go to Rochdale in the FA Cup next Saturday on the back of two away defeats.
After succumbing to an injury time goal at AFC Fylde the Heed lost in North Wales as hosts Wrexham hit the top of the table.
The Red Dragons, still to lose at home, stretched their unbeaten run to nine games after Luke Armstrong briefly got Gateshead back into the game.
Armstrong’s strike two minutes from the end of normal time halved the deficit, only for Wrexham to add a third in stoppage time.
It was a rare below par performance from Gateshead on the road, one which left manager Steve Watson disappointed.
“We were outplayed in all departments, and that’s the first time I have said that this season,” said Watson.
“It’s a reality check about how hard this league is, and how good a side Wrexham are. They were better than us in a l l aspects. “They’re a big club and should be up and around where they are, and they’ve got very good players. “We’ve done brilliant this season, but that’s the first time for a long time that we’ve been outplayed and out-battled. “We wanted to have a real go and played all three strikers, but we looked tired and it was one of those days everything that could go wrong did.” Watson switched to a 4-3-3 formation to match the home side’s system and it was the visitors who had the early momentum. Armstrong, up top alongside Scott Boden and Steven Rigg, was wide with the first effort. Rigg then also fired shots from outside the box, the second of which was just wide of the post. But it was the Red Dragons who were the first to find the net in somewhat fortuitous circumstances. Good play from Paul Rutherford saw his ball in from the byline deflect off Heed centre-back Mike Williamson at the near post and into his own net. That brought a period of pressure from the Welshmen, James Jennings’ crossshot clearing both Aynsley Pears and the bar.
Pears then had a scare when he raced out of goal and clattered Chris Holroyd, referee Gary Parsons opting for yellow rather than red.
Armstrong put a header wide, while Holroyd got on the end of a precise Luke Summerfield cross only to put his effort over the bar.
Gateshead switched to their usual three centre-half system for the second half with Jon Mellish replacing midfield man Jack Hunter.
Greg Olley curled an early shot into hands of Dragons’ on loan Port Vale keeper Rob Lainton, who then saved well from Boden.
But when Jennings force a corner that was cleared, Paul Rutherford’s cross was headed home by former Hartlepool United man Brad Walker.
An Akil Pyke shot on the spin from Rutherford’s set-up almost made it three before the Heed struck in the 88th minute.
Armstrong pounced from close in after sub Luke Molyneux’s shot was blocked, only for sub Akil Pyke’s deflected shot to clinch victory.