Assistant manager Ian Watson is keen to place emphasis on his side’s mentality ahead of Saturday’s clash against Woking.
Gateshead return to Vanarama National League action this weekend on the back of securing progression to the Emirates FA Cup first round on Tuesday, with a 2-1 win over Altrincham setting up a tie at home to Stevenage on Saturday, November 5.
The Heed’s resilience was at the forefront of Tuesday’s display with Dan Ward, Ethan Pye and Robbie Tinkler all taken off by half time, adding to what has become an extensive injury list this season.
“Tuesday was a tough night for us,” said Watson.
“Luckily, Wardy’s injury was just a tightness in his hamstring so he’s available for tomorrow.
“It’s a bit too soon for Ethan and it looks like Tinks is going to be unavailable long term, which is a blow for us because he plays every game that he is available for.
“He’s a big part of how we like to play, so he’s going to be a big miss, but on the flip side it’s an opportunity now for lads to come in and really prove a point.”
The Heed’s squad has been struck by injury since the opening week of pre-season, with Watson and Mike Williamson yet to have a fully fit squad to select from this season.
Pye and Tinkler’s absences add to the seemingly ever-growing injury list, with Kenton Richardson, Lewis Knight, Louis Storey and Will Harris also unavailable for selection.
Summer signings Aaron Martin and Dan Jarvis have seen playing time limited following their own injury lay-offs, and Watson admits consistency can be difficult to come by with absences forcing the coaching team’s hand in team selection.
“It’s hard to get consistency when you’re constantly having to change players in so many positions,” he said.
“You want to be able to freshen things up from time to time and have competition for places, but at the same time you want lads to be consistently performing and playing back to back games.
“We’re not ready to give some of the lads any longer than 20 or 30 minutes because they need that as a starting point, but like on Tuesday for example we had three lads injured in the first half and all of our subs have been made.
“Aaron Martin, for example, we want to give 20 minutes to but we’re unable to do that, and it’s tough.
“We can’t just throw lads back in and risk them getting injured again because it’s craziness to do that, we have to do things properly and build the minutes back up.
“It’s frustrating because we believe we’ve got some of the best players in the league to come back and contribute, but it’s also exciting because we know that when we do have a full squad to pick from we’ve got so much quality.
“When boys do come back there will be lads playing who don’t want to give their shirt up and are going to work to keep those boys out as well.
“We’re using it as an opportunity to learn, grow and become better coaches and the players are doing the same.
“You don’t just get better when you’re winning every week, you improve from the tougher times as well.
“It’s certainly tough at the minute, but we believe we’ll come out as a better team for it.”
Tuesday’s win over Altrincham saw the pack shuffled slightly, both injury enforced and from the first whistle.
Jevon Mills and Lirak Hasani were both deployed in the back four, the latter of whom filling in at right back, while Owen Gallacher started for the first time since September 13 as part of the forward line.
“Jevon came in and he did really well,” said Watson.
“It’s a hard position to play for us because we like the centre backs to start our attacks, so they need to understand all of the different rotations and ways in which they need to play.
“It’s tough for a centre back to come in and hit the ground running with us, and I thought he came in and injected a lot of energy into the game on Tuesday.
“He would have gone home happy that night, and we were happy with his performance as well.
“Lirak comes in and goes to right back, which is not his position, but the thing with Lirak is we trust him.
“He looks after himself so well, he’s fit and robust, he’s technically at a really good level and he understands the game well tactically.
“It’s testament to himself that he’s able to come in and put in a performance as he did.
“He understands that the harder he works, the better he’s going to be, and he’s certainly one of the hardest workers we’ve got.
“Playing Gally [Owen Gallacher] higher up allows us to use his pace and give the opposing team problems.
“His work rate was unbelievable – he hadn’t trained for a couple of weeks.
“We got the first goal from his pressing and after 20 minutes you could see that he was struggling a little bit with the fitness side, but his attitude, mentality and desire got him through it.
“He didn’t once look across once to say he was tired or anything like that, as did Adi [Yussuf] a couple of weeks ago.
“We’ve got such a good group mentality wise, and that’s going to hold us in good stead.”
Saturday’s National League fixture sees Woking visit Gateshead International Stadium, with Darren Sarll’s men currently sitting two points outside of the play-off positions.
The Cards’ defeat against Notts County was only their second defeat in nine, and Watson is under no illusions as to the task at hand this weekend.
“I actually spent some time at last season’s National League awards night with Woking’s chairman,” he said.
“He told me the plans they had for their team and what they were looking to build, and it sounded really exciting.
“They’ve got a good manager and they’ve just signed Rhys Browne as well, who has scored against us already this season.
“We’ve identified where we feel we can hurt them, and we’ve also identified where we feel they can hurt us and where the boys are going to have to be on high alert.
“It’s a really exciting game for us, Woking are doing really well and they’ve got goals in the team – they had the result against Halifax when they scored four away from home.
“I’ve said a million times that we want to test ourselves against the best teams and I genuinely feel Woking are one of them.”