Despite suffering their fourth Vanarama Conference defeat in succession, and conceding their third double in the process, Alfreton Town can take some consolation from an improved performance.
Karl Hawley was the only striker to start the game at the Impact Arena on Tuesday night, but had the forward running Dan Bradley for company, which allowed winger John Johnston to start.
Nathan Hicks also earned a recall to the side with Bradley Wood injured and Anthony Howell rested. A promising start by the Reds saw both Hawley and Johnston embark on runs that ended with them being crowded out by Gateshead defenders, then a swift break by Hawley in the 14th minute petered out when Johnston slipped in possession.
Lathaniel Rowe-Turner’s by-line cross fell to Duane Courtney on the edge of the area, but a moment too long dwelling on the ball cost him his chance, then Alex Rodman cut in from the left for the Tynesiders before Hicks intervened.
Another good foray by Johnston led to a superb crossfield pass before Hicks ran into a blind alley, but Gateshead struck in the 31st minute shortly after winning their seventh corner.
John Oster fed the ball to Robert Ramshaw, who in turn teed up for Matty Pattison to stab the ball past Reds’ keeper Sam Johnson from close range. Seven minutes later Ramshaw went close with a glancing header from an Oster free-kick as Alfreton struggled to regain confidence and momentum.
The second half had barely started when Johnston stubbed his shot from 16 yards from a Rowe-Turner cross, but James Curtis then headed over from a Pattison corner as Alfreton were reminded of their dilemma. Johnston cut in to test Gateshead keeper Adam Bartlett from 20 yards on 55 minutes, then moments later vehement penalty appeals were waved aside when Tom Shaw’s free-kick reared up against a defender’s arm.
A good central run by Bradley ended with a wayward shot in the 63rd minute, then Rodman’s by-line cross was fumbled by Johnson, who then made amends with a great block with his legs from the same player.
Gateshead’s persistence paid off with their second goal in the 68th minute when Rodman’s cross was once again rifled in from close range by Pattison as a familiar pattern emerged for the Reds.
Paul Clayton came on for the final 20 minutes, allowing Bradley to revert to a more comfortable midfield role, and a confident run by the popular striker saw his low angled drive held by Bartlett.
Clayton gave Alfreton supporters late hope when he tucked Johnston’s deep cross inside Bartlett’s near post just as the fourth official was indicating three minutes of added time. Then right at the end Carl Lamb almost snatched a dramatic equaliser when he latched on to a woeful pass by Valentin Gjokaj, only to take the ball too wide and allow Bartlett to recover.
Alfreton: Johnson; Byrne, Davies, Graham, Rowe-Turner, Courtney, Shaw, Hicks (Clayton 70), Johnston, Bradley, Hawley (Lamb 78).
Subs not used: Howell, Keane, Sheridan.