Gateshead 1, Alfreton Town 1
Alfreton Town gave themselves a massive boost in their quest for Blue Square Bet Premier survival with their best performance of the season on Saturday.
Even so they were understandably disappointed to have only drawn with high-flying Gateshead, who had led the table in the first two months of the campaign, the Reds having as many as four efforts cleared off the line and numerous shots saved as they pressed relentlessly.
A low Nathan Arnold drive from 15 yards in the fifth minute from a Jamie Mullan cross was held by Gateshead keeper Jak Alnwick, then moments later Anthony Wilson forced James Curtis to concede a corner that led to Paul Clayton’s deflected shot being scooped off the line by Kris Gate.
With nine minutes elapsed a glancing header by Micky Cummins from a Martin Brittain cross flew wide for the visitors, then five minutes later an Anthony Church free-kick had to be tipped over by Alnwick.
In the 15th minute a looping header from Connor Franklin was also held by the busier of the two keepers, then Wilson won another corner off Curtis with Gate this time clearing off the line from Franklin.
A long clearance from Reds’ keeper Joe Day in the 18th minute sent Clayton through but he dragged his shot wide from 12 yards as Alnwick reduced his options, then after a quiet spell a shot from Phil Turnbull in the 34th minute looped up off Leigh Franks for a Gateshead corner.
Afreton finally took the lead three minutes later and what a goal it was to savour, with Clayton hammering the ball into the top corer of the net from 18 yards after Jake Moult had back-heeled a Mullan cross.
A powerful volley from Cummins from another Brittain cross was superbly parried by Day in the 39th minute, then four minutes later Day again kept Alfreton in front by stopping Gate’s shot with his legs.
Seven minutes into the second half Mullan’s angled drive following a determined run was tipped over at the near post by Alnwick, then from Moult’s corner Greg Young’s header struck Gate on the line and Clayton’s follow-up was blocked by the keeper.
A brilliant tackle by Franks as Jon Shaw latched on to a Turnbull cross unwittingly led to an equaliser with the corner reaching sub Chris Moore 22 yards out, and he sent a first time left footed drive screaming past Day to almost emulate the quality of Clayton’s opener.
Alnwick fumbled a 71st minute Franks free-kick as Curtis again conceded a corner, the outcome this time seeing James Marwood clear Clayton’s header off the line with a further flag-kick setting up another effort from Clayton that was saved by Alnwick.
A vital interception by Ben Clark prevented Clayton from converting Mullan’s cross ten minutes from time, then on 86 minutes Gateshead almost snatched an undeserved winner when Gate’s miskick fell to Shaw who fired across the face of goal.
The game was marred by a late head injury to Franks who had to be stretchered off after being attended by the club doctor, the Reds’ defender again bravely attempting an aerial clearance that caused him to be knocked out.
Alfreton Town: Day; Franks (Brown 90+6), Streete, Young, Franklin, Mullan, Moult, Church, Arnold (Senior 89), Clayton, A.Wilson (Jarman 76). Other subs: Mackin, Hall.
Attendance: 651 (89 from Alfreton).