GATES SHUT ON BLUEBIRDS RUN
BARROW’S four-month unbeaten run spanning 26 games came to a shuddering halt on the banks of the Tyne.
Neil Aspin’s Gateshead were down to the bare bones, but after conceding an early goal from Danny Livesey they hit back in style with two goals in each half to end an otherwise inconsistent year on a high.
But it was a New Year’s Eve clash that proved to be a sobering one for philosophical Bluebirds manager Paul Cox, who missed out on the chance to cut the gap to leaders Tranmere to four points.
Cox admitted afterwards: “If there’s any positive to the result it’s that we knew it was coming at some point.
“We just never turned up, though we had chances at 1-0 up to kill the game, but there now needs to be some serious planning go forward.
“We got well and truly beaten today by a Gateshead side who worked extremely hard and deserved the win. It’s been a great achievement to go so long unbeaten, but no-one remembers the first half of the season and we now need to push on.” For mid-table Gateshead – draw specialists at home – it was a first win in eight league games and an excellent display against the odds, taking them ever closer to the play-off places. “I’m obviously delighted because we’ve not won many games of late,” said boss Aspin. “We were under pressure to get a result. “It takes a lot of doing to go 26 games unbeaten, so credit to Barrow for that, but we fully deserved to win and the whole team was excellent.
“Some individual performances were outstanding. Nyal Bell and Luke Hannant did very well and their goals will have done them the world of good.
“The first goal got us back into the game and the quality of the goals were excellent. We defended well when we had to in the second half and I was delighted with the performance.”
But Aspin was made to sweat in the opening exchanges as Barrow edged ahead as early as the eighth minute.
Indeed, it was a poor goal for a makeshift Heed to concede – Livesey allowed to confidently dispatch Nick Anderton’s cross into the box at the back-post.
The former Carlisle defender was just a foot out and it was the perfect way to celebrate his 32nd birthday.
Hannant put an effort high over the bar and the 22-year-old then smashed the ball into the roof of the net midway through the half to draw Aspin’s men level.
Fellow rookie Bell did all the hard work going past two men on the left of the box to put the ball into the path of Hannant.
The midfielder’s finish was emphatic, but he was then booked within a minute for a two-footed lunge, the adrenalin flowing.
Bell’s strike partner Jordan Burrow was unlucky not to double the home lead with a header from Liam Hogan’s cross that was just tipped over.
Gateshead, however, were not to be denied and on 39 minutes Bell got in on the act from Gus Mafuta’s quick free-kick, sliding a low shot beyond Andy Coughlin and just inside the far post. They were two great finishes, but Barrow remained a threat going forward – Moussa Diarra hitting the post with an overhead kick.
Gateshead’s finishing, however, proved the difference after the break as they added two more against the shell-shocked Cumbrians.
Paddy McLaughlin’s ball inside the full-back saw Wes York’s driven cross poked home by Burrow less than four minutes in.
And Barrow were put out of their misery on 70 minutes when Burrow’s through-ball sent York racing into the left side of the box, and he cleverly dinked the ball over the advancing Coughlin as the keeper went to ground.
STAR MAN: Nyal Bell (Gateshead) ATT: 871 ENTERTAINMENT: ★★★★★ REFEREE: Andrew Miller 6/10
SLIDING IN: Jordan Burrow scores Gateshead’s third goal after Nyal Bell bags the second, inset top. Below: Luke Hannant celebrates his equaliser