Gateshead return to the National League with a 560-mile round trip to Dagenham and Redbridge on Saturday.
The Heed ended pre-season with a win over Middlesbrough U21s last weekend, and will contest their first game back in the fifth tier this weekend following a three-year absence.
Dagenham, meanwhile, are unbeaten across their five pre-season outings after drawing their last three against Leyton Orient, Concord Rangers and West Ham United U21s.
The Daggers narrowly missed out on the play-off positions last season, finishing eighth and one point behind Chesterfield.
“The lads are looking really good, and we are all prepped as we possibly can be and we’re all looking forward to a very good test,” said player-manager, Mike Williamson.
“We want to try and get in behind them and exploit the spaces.
“The training was a really good intensity, had a really good atmosphere and we’re looking forward to getting down there.
“There are no targets and there are no limitations. Win, lose or draw we’ll go about our business and our process – we’re trying to improve every single day.”
“When you play the first game of the season, particularly against a team who have been promoted, enthusiasm will be really high,” Daggers boss Daryl McMahon told the club’s official YouTube channel.
“They won the league, which is always difficult to do at any level, so we know it’s going to be a tough game but it’s one we’re looking forward to.”
Dan Jarvis remains side-lined alongside Lewis Knight who both will be unavailable for the first portion of the season.
Dan Langley is also set to miss out following an injury picked up in the final game of pre-season.
Last Time We Met
The Heed ran out 2-0 winners the last time the two clubs met in February 2019 at Victoria Road.
Former Gateshead striker Steve Rigg netted a brace to take all three points in East London.
Concessions (Over 65’s and students): £16
Young Adult (17-21): £14
10 to 16-year-olds: £12
Tickets in the away end will not be available to purchase on the gate as the SD Samuels stand is cashless.
Gateshead earned a point on their Vanarama National League return at Dagenham & Redbridge.
Paul Blackett and Adam Campbell put The Heed two goals ahead early on, but Paul McCallum’s first half header and Junior Morias’ injury-time strike ensured the points were shared at The Chigwell Construction Stadium.
Mike Williamson handed competitive debuts to Ethan Pye and Aaron Martin on the opening day, while James Montgomery made his first league start since returning to the club in March 2022.
Gateshead got off to a dream start when Blackett struck only six minutes in, popping up at the back post to slide Dan Ward’s cross from point-blank range.
Six minutes later and Campbell had made it two when Pye’s lofted ball into the box went unchallenged, leaving the forward to round Elliot Justham and tap into an empty net.
The Heed’s lightning start left Dagenham shell-shocked, and it took 24 minutes for the hosts to register their first chance on goal when Owen Bailey fouled Josh Walker for a penalty.
Montgomery did what Gateshead fans have seen him do numerous times before however, diving low to his left to parry McCallum’s spot kick and preserve his side’s two-goal lead.
The Daggers had Justham to thank for not going three behind four minutes later with the ‘keeper standing firm to block Greg Olley’s one-on-one after Campbell had sent him through.
McCallum made amends for his penalty miss five minutes before the break when he planted a diving header past Montgomery at the back post, setting up a tense second 45.
Dagenham gained more control over possession than they had in the first half, though they didn’t test Montgomery on too many occasions.
Tinkler halted a dangerous attack with a well-timed challenge early in the half, while Williamson handed Will Harris and Lirak Hasani their National League debuts on 59 and 66 minutes respectively.
The hosts’ possession and pressure under the blazing sun ultimately paid off four minutes into injury time when substitute Morais found space to shoot in the box, placing past Montgomery to send Gateshead home with one point on the opening day.
Gateshead: Montgomery, Tinkler, Storey, Magnay, Pye (Richardson, 38’), Bailey, Ward, Olley (c), Martin (Harris, 59’), Campbell, Blackett (Hasani, 66’).
Substitutes: Forbes, Allan.
Goals: Blackett (6’), Campbell (12’)
Yellow Cards: Olley (45+3’), Martin (58’), Magnay (81’)
Dagenham & Redbridge: Justham, Hare, Onariase (Longe-King 45’), Johnson, Weston, Mussa (Sagaf 56’), Rance (Morias 66’), Robinson, Vilhete, McCallum, Walker
Substitutes: Tavares, Ling
Goals: McCallum (40’), Morais (90+4’)
Attendance: 1,455 (90 Gateshead)