WREX­HAM 3 GATESHEAD 1 Re­al­ity check for Wat­son as Drag­ons roar

Sunday Sun - - Football - JEFF BOWRON

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.

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