The Lions picked up their first away win since August with a 3-2 victory at Gateshead on Saturday, despite a late onslaught from the hosts.
Boosted by the return of Aaron Martin and Jamie Spencer from suspension and with Sam Scrivens now back from his loan at Matlock it was a performance much like the ones seen in the opening month of the season that proved crucial in overturning The Heed’s resolute form at the Gateshead International Stadium.
The hosts were going into the game looking for their seventh straight home victory in all competitions and with no goals conceded in NE10 since West Yorkshire rivals Farsley Celtic’s 3-0 triumph in August.
The Lions ripped up the form book and raced into a three goal lead before two goals from Gateshead set up a tense final ten minutes to the game.
In a tight first half the opening chance fell to Scrivens in the 12th minute, the striker received Scott Garner’s lob but couldn’t beat Brad James from a narrow angle as his shot drifted just past the post.
Just a minute later Martin looked to have scored his 15th goal of the season so far and definitely his best, he made the most of a loose ball with an overhead kick which he couldn’t have caught sweeter leaving James stranded as the ball flew into the top corner.
Referee Paul Brown however threw a sting into the tale ruling the effort out for an apparent high foot.
Martin didn’t let that affect him though and 5 minutes later he gave his side the lead, Brad Nicholson’s short corner found Scrivens who picked out Martin at the back post, the MANarama National League North leading scorer couldn’t miss and headed in from two yards out.
Alex Nicholson nearly created the chance that would have levelled the scores though, his dangerous cross evaded all the Gateshead attackers and the danger was cleared.
Spencer was the next player to go close, B.Nicholson’s low corner found the midfielder but his effort was blocked as it looked to be going on target.
The final opening of the first 45 fell to Greg Olley on the volley, his powerful drive from the edge of the area struck the side netting much to the relief of the travelling faithful.
It wasn’t the last of the action though, Martin had to leave the field after sustaining a cut to the head in a collision with James, the striker returned to the match before the half was over wearing a new shirt and sporting a big white bandage around his head.
The Heed raced out of the blocks in the second half with The Lions defence coming under pressure for the opening 15 minutes after the break.
The Lions’ threat was still there though on the counter attack, Kaine Felix ran past his marker like he wasn’t there to find Scrivens in the box but his header went wide.
Up the other end Dom Tear raced in to the box unmarked and was perfectly picked out by JJ O’Donnell but his effort on the slide flew comfortably over the bar and onto the running track.
Four minutes later it was a miss they regretted as B.Nicholson’s powerful long throw picked out Hamza Bencherif who glanced the ball into the net with his head for his second goal in as many games with 67′ on the clock. It was a crowded area but the centre back lept highest and finished well.
Then Marcus Dewhurst made a stop from a shot that looked certain to be going in, former Lion Jordan Preston nearly made an immediate impact after coming off the bench when he saw his shot heavily deflected and it looked to be looping over the England U19 keeper but he recovered and pushed the ball over the bar.
From the resulting corner The Lions countered via Spencer’s accurate long ball which found Scrivens, he teed up Felix who kept his head and raced through to slot past James with a composed finish and celebrated in front of the travelling support who looked to be seeing a comfortable win in the North East with just 19 minutes remaining.
Just two minutes later though Gateshead were back in it, Olley’s cross was volleyed in by Nicky Deverdics who was unmarked at the back post but he still had a lot to do.
Scrivens was withdrawn after an impressive afternoon’s work in which he claimed two assists and Assistant Manager Paul Clayton was introduced in his place, he nearly got a fourth for his side but couldn’t get the ball out from underneath his feet in front of goal and the chance was gone.
Then Bencherif picked up a booking after colliding with Josh Kayode and the resulting set piece was finished off by the Gateshead striker, Deverdics found him at the back post and he couldn’t miss in a goal similar to Martin’s in the first half.
There were 10 minutes left for Marcus Bignot and Russ O’Neill’s side to hold out for the three points, Preston nearly teed up Kayode but his cross just evaded the striker and went out for a goal kick.
The best chance fell to Olley who saw his shot from range well stopped by Dewhurst as The Lions travelled back to Yorkshire with all three points from a memorable contest.
We are back at Nethermoor next week for the visit of Kettering Town, kick-off on Saturday is at 3pm with tickets available to purchase on the turnstile as normal.
Attendance: 1004 including 46 travelling supporters
1 Marcus Dewhurst, 2. George Cantrill, 3. Brad Nicholson, 4. Andrai Jones, 5. Hamza Bencherif, 6. Scott Garner, 7. Kaine Felix, 8. Jamie Spencer, 9. Aaron Martin, 10. Aram Soleman and 11. Sam Scrivens (75′ Clayton).
12. Dylan Barkers, 14. Nathan Newall, 16. Kennedy Digie (All Unused) and 16. Paul Clayton (75′ Scrivens).