Gateshead travel to Kettering Town on Saturday for the penultimate away fixture of the Vanarama National League North season.
The Heed sit four points clear at the top of the league table following Easter Monday’s 4-2 win over Darlington – the third victory in a row for Mike Williamson’s side.
A win on Saturday would at least maintain Gateshead’s four-point lead at the top of the table, and could extend to as high as seven depending on Brackley Town’s result at Darlington.
Kettering have proven a difficult side to beat this season, previously under Paul Cox and now under Ian Culverhouse, who won the National League North title with King’s Lynn Town in 2020.
The Poppies have lost only once from their last eight games – a 2-0 home defeat to Guiseley on April 12 – and currently sit seventh via a superior goal difference to York City in eighth.
Callum Powell, who joined Southend United in January, remains their league top scorer with 11 goals while Jordon Crawford and Connor Kennedy are joint second with six each.
“Every game at this stage is going to be difficult,” said Williamson on Thursday.
“I know Cully, he knows the league, he’s got a way of playing and he’s rejuvenated them
“They’re compact, they break well and they try to play football on a difficult pitch so we know how hard it’s going to be.
“They’re fighting to get into the play offs, but ultimately we’ve just got to focus on ourselves.”
“We’ll be back in and we will look at Gateshead’s strengths and weaknesses, which there aren’t many of,” Kettering’s assistant manager, Paul Bastock, told the Northamptonshire Telegraph.
“But we will be working on it and Cully [Ian Culverhouse] will try to come up with a cunning plan.
“Nobody wants to come to our place.”
There are no fresh injury concerns to report ahead of Saturday’s trip to Latimer Park.
Carl Magnay returned to the bench on Monday and will once again be available for selection.
Last Time We Met
A three-goal blast in the first half saw Gateshead secure a win over Kettering in their first game of the season in August 2021.
A trio inside eight minutes, with a double from Cedwyn Scott and one from Macaulay Langstaff, had the hosts in control for the remainder of the game.
Callum Powell struck with half an hour to go to hand Kettering a lifeline, but it mattered little to the result as Gateshead started the season with a flourish.
Tickets for Saturday’s fixture away to Kettering Town will be sold on the gate only at Latimer Park.
There will be no tickets sold online for Saturday’s fixture, with home and away supporters required to pay on the gate.
Admission is priced at:
Adult – £15
Concessions (Over 60’s & students) – £10
Youth (Under 18) – £2
There is limited parking at Latimer Park, but the Alumasc car park (next to the ground) on the right by the entrance, is in use for all of Kettering Town’s home fixtures this season.
Kettering Town’s social club is open for hot and cold food & drinks. The social club entrance can be found by the marquee area in the main car park.
Connor Malley’s third goal of the season ensured Gateshead left Latimer Park with a point and three games remaining in the Vanarama National League North.
Connor Johnson converted from close range to put Kettering ahead with four minutes on the clock, before Malley’s 20-yard strike pulled The Heed level at half time and earned a draw on the road.
Mike Williamson made two changes following Monday’s win over Darlington, introducing Matty Jacob and Malley to the starting 11 in place of Taylor Charters and Dan Ward.
Kettering struck with the first real act of the game to leave Gateshead needing to come from behind, as Johnson slammed a loose ball into the bottom corner following a scramble in the box caused by a corner.
The Heed looked to implement their usual game and control the ball moving forwards, but Robbie Tinkler and Jacob’s early efforts at providing a final ball into the box proved fruitless.
At the other end, Connor Kennedy sent an effort wide of Filip Marschall’s goal following a cross into the middle of the box but it looked like the visitors were more likely to find the next goal.
Macaulay Langstaff sent a one-on-one over the bar on the bounce after Marschall sent a long ball in behind, either side of efforts from Malley and Owen Bailey which were wide of the target.
Malley found the target in style with five minutes until the break however, watching the ball bounce on the edge of the box before side footing into the far corner after Adam Campbell and Cedwyn Scott had combined in the build up.
The second 45 provided little in the way of clear chances on goal for either side, though Jacob looked to get Gateshead off to a strong start when he drove into the box and volleyed over the bar from Greg Olley’s set up.
Callum Stead fired over the bar for Kettering later on, and the hosts almost found a second via a slice of good fortune when a corner was struck directly against the crossbar 74 minutes in.
Campbell saw an effort inside the area blocked by a crowd of Kettering shirts, before Scott found the palms of Jackson Smith with an effort from a tight angle as time wore down.
Neither side could find the elusive second goal, and Gateshead took a point back to Tyneside to remain top of the National League North by two points.
Gateshead XI: Marschall, Tinkler, Williamson, Storey, Jacob (Charters, 68’), Bailey, Malley (Ward, 75’), Olley (c), Langstaff, Campbell, Scott.
Substitutes: Hunter, Magnay.
Goals: Malley (40’)
Yellow Cards: Storey (61’), Olley (84’)
Kettering Town XI: J.Smith, Barrett, Brown, C. Smith, Johnson, Cooper, Stead (Sheriff, 72’), Kennedy (c), Stohrer, Crawford (Deacon, 90+2’), Sharpe.
Kettering Town Substitutes: J. Smith, Davies, Milovanic.
Goals: Johnson (4’)