High-flyers fail to hit the heights as bottom sides rule
EASTLEIGH led the way by beating high-flying Macclesfield Town on yet another crazy day in the National League.
Mark Yeates scored twice to fire his side to three points against second-placed Macc – although, strangely enough, other results saw the Spitfires slip a place in the table.
Of all the sides who started the day in the top half of the table, only Maidstone United managed to win after Alex Finney’s 95th-minute strike against Chester.
For the rest it was a draw or a defeat with Dover Athletic still topping the pile following their 0-0 draw at Gateshead.
Hartlepool United inched their way into the top 12, and are only a point outside the play-offs, after a 2-0 win against Torquay United.
Ady Pennock’s reign at Barrow got off to a winning start as they beat Aldershot Town 3-1 thanks to Adi Yussuf ’s hat-trick, while Guiseley edged past Woking in a five-goal thriller.
APOINT on their travels at a windswept North East was enough to keep Dover at the top of the National League.
The Kent outfit have been impressive on the road in the league losing only once, but this could easily have been their second.
Heed midfield dynamo Luke Hannant, the best player on the pitch, struck the Whites bar in each half, the latter in the 89th minute.
The only winner on the day, however, were the conditions, and Gateshead used the wind behind them much better than Dover did in the second.
For new manager Steve Watson’s homecoming after almost two decades from his native Tyneside it was a case of what might have been.
The former Newcastle, Everton and Aston Villa star has revived the Heed’s fortunes, but was frustrated they didn’t break down the second best defence in the division.
“We were the only side likely to break the deadlock, but we didn’t work their keeper enough,” said Watson.
“We were the team that was trying to play football, create chances and open Dover up, but the conditions were very difficult and the ball wasn’t on the floor very often.
“There were plenty of positives, not least another clean sheet. We knew what was coming, but I was surprised at the amount of balls that were loaded into our box.
“With a bit better finishing we could have got the three points. We had six or seven chances in the first half but didn’t get them on target.
“It was tough to impose our style of football in the strong wind, but credit to the players for another clean sheet after the win at Orient.
Gateshead bossed the first half with the strong wind behind them, three shots off target in the opening seven minutes.
The Heed had continued where they left off at Leyton Orient in midweek, Hannant continuously probing. The midfielder side-footed over the bar early on and was then desperately unlucky not to score at the midway point of the half.
Superbly controlling Paddy McLaughlin’s dink into the box an instinctive 16-yard volley crashed against the bar.
Whites keeper Mitch Walker was beaten, just as he had been when McLaughlin’s edge of the box strike flew past the post.
Jordan Burrow fired over the bar twice as Dover battled against the elements and Gateshead continued to push.
Whites defended doggedly, Mitch Pinnock and Ryan Bird with rare half chances, Dover unable to capitalise on the wind advantage after the break.
The dangerous Hannant twice sent balls across the face of goal, Bird’s shot deflected wide, before Hannant headed JJ O’Donnell’s late cross against the bar.
“The wind had a major affect on the game,” said Dover assistant manager Jake Leberl. “And we were pleased to go in at halftime with the game goalless.
“With the wind behind us we expected to put Gateshead under pressure. It didn’t work out that way but any point away is a good one.
“We were good defensively again and we’re now unbeaten in eight away games in the league, so we have to be happy with that.”
OOPS I DID IT AGAIN! Eastleigh’s Mark Yeates enjoys his two-goal salvo in their 2-1 win over Macclesfield Town