PREVIEW: Gateshead FC v Wrexham FC

Here’s my column from last week’s Leader. It forms part of the paper’s comprehensive pre-match coverage every Friday, featuring interviews, an in-depth look at the opposition and lots of statistical analysis. All content in the column (c) www.leaderlive.co.uk.

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Gateshead away might be a tough match to negotiate if we want to keep our dreams of Wembley alive, but in recent years we’ve enjoyed the trip north east. In fact, we’re enjoying our best run of results away to The Heed in a rivalry which stretches back to 1928.

We’ve won our last four games at The Gateshead International Stadium, doubling our total number of wins at Gateshead in the process.

Our two biggest winning margins in Gateshead have been achieved in the course of those wins too. Last season second half goals from Brett Ormerod, who had scored the only goal the season before, Steve Tomassen and Andy Bishop brought up a 3-0 victory, while two seasons previously we ran out 4-1 winners. Dean Keates, Danny Wright and Joe Clarke all hit the net on that occasion, as did an unfortunate Heed defender.

We’ve only won by three goals on one other occasion at Gateshead, back in February 1934, when Tommy Bamford got all the goals in a 3-0 win.

Keates also scored the only goal in April 2011 to start off this sequence of wins, and perhaps that was the most satisfying win as it brought a measure of revenge for the remarkable clash at The Racecourse just two months earlier when Gateshead ran out 7-2 winners, inflicting the biggest home defeat in Wrexham’s history in the process.

Since that thrashing we’ve certainly had the upper hand against The Heed, both home and away. They’ve beaten us just once in nine subsequent clashes, with Wrexham victorious six times. However, that one win, accomplished in the second match of this season, did maintain their record of winning emphatically against us as they triumphed 3-0.

We also have an ace up our sleeve in Andy Bishop, whose five goals in three starts against Gateshead put him third in the list of Wrexham’s top scorers against them. The afore-mentioned Bamford stands top of the pile, having scored fifteen times past them in just ten games.

This purple patch of form in Gateshead has come after something of a barren spell. Before Keates’ winner, the last time we’d won there was in April 1955, when a Tommy Bannan goal earned a 1-0 win. That statistic is skewed by the fact that we didn’t play them often in the intervening years, of course, as Gateshead dropped out of the Football League in 1960, but our recent wins has certainly given a much-needed boost to our record there. Overall we’ve now won eight, drawn nine and lost thirteen.

Our record at Gateshead in cup competitions is mixed. We’ve twice played FA Cup first round ties there: in November 1929 Albert Mays scored twice in a 4-2 victory with Bamford inevitably chipping in with one of the others; but two years later, despite Bamford scoring again, we lost 3-2.

Connor Jennings will be available again tomorrow after serving his suspension for the red card he picked up against AFC Telford United, and if he’s selected he’ll make the hundredth appearance of his career.

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