Ruthless Gateshead emerge victorious
Mansfield Town were comfortably beaten by a ruthless Gateshead side in their second Blue Square Bet Premier match of the new campaign.
The Stags, who were second best throughout the night, were level at the interval after Luke Jones had cancelled out Liam Hatch’s early opener.
But a poor second half performance, in which Nathan Fisher grabbed two goals and Chris Bush scored from a freak free-kick, condemned Paul Cox’s side to a heavy defeat.
Right-back Lee Beevers was also sent-off for a poor challenge on Josh Gillies in what proved to be a thoroughly miserable night all-round.
The Stags boss made only one change to his starting line-up following Saturday’s home defeat to Newport County, with the injured Ross Dyer being replaced by debutant Junior Daniel in midfield.
The hosts enjoyed plenty of early possession on a glorious summer evening at the International Stadium and created the first opportunity after only three minutes when Paddy Boyle headed wide of Alan Marriott’s woodwork following left-back Bush’s cross into the area.
Hatch almost opened the scoring soon afterwards. The experienced striker peeled away from George Pilkington inside the box to reach a chipped ball into the area from the left flank, but his header from six yards out was superbly tipped round the post by Marriott.
From the resulting corner, Micky Cummins capitalised on some poor defending and directed a free header straight at the Stags shot-stopper before Carl Magnay’s follow-up attempt caught a deflection and sailed high over the woodwork at the expense of another corner.
However, this time, with only 10 minutes on the clock, Gateshead’s pressure was to be rewarded as Hatch caught the defence sleeping and stooped low to head past Marriott from the edge of the six-yard box and send the majority of the crowd into celebration.
Jake Speight replaced Jamie Tolley in a tactical substitution after only 15 minutes of the game, which soon proved to be an inspired one as the Stags found themselves back on level terms three minutes later.
Pilkington delivered a long free-kick into the box from midway inside the Gateshead half and fellow central-defensive partner Jones rose highest to cushion his header past the despairing Adam Bartlett and level the scoreline.
Recent signing Daniel and substitute Speight enjoyed further opportunities, before the hosts turned the screw and created a series of good opportunities after the half-hour mark.
Magnay and Cummins combined on the right flank, before a shot from playmaker Gillies cannoned off the body of Pilkington and almost crept past a wrong-footed Marriott at his near post.
Gillies picked out Magnay from the resulting corner, who could only direct his header wide of the woodwork, much to the relief of a static Stags defence who were caught napping moments later.
This time, Gillies found Boyle in acres of space on the left-hand side as he quickly switched play from right to left, but despite having time and space in abundance to do more, Boyle ultimately fired a tame low shot straight at Marriott after advancing into the area.
Beevers was then cautioned for a challenge on Hatch, moments before Matt Green thought he had won a penalty after he was fouled in the area by centre-back James Curtis.
Despite referee Darren Handley initially pointing to the spot, after consultation with his assistant who had also raised his flag, it was decided that Green had strayed into an offside position prior to being fouled and Gateshead were instead awarded a free-kick.
Cummins soon volleyed over from distance at the opposite end on 39 minutes, but it was the Stags who created the last opportunity of the half when Anthony Howell headed over following a superb left-wing cross into the area from Daniel.
John Thompson replaced fellow centre-back Pilkington at half-time, and the Stags wasted only three minutes before enjoying the first chance of the second period.
A long throw from Andy Owens found Howell lurking dangerously inside the six-yard box, but the midfielder could only flick a header towards Speight who was denied by Bartlett.
Nevertheless, Gateshead soon began to dominate proceedings and regained the lead on 57 minutes.
Fisher carved out a shooting angle for himself on the edge of the box after cutting inside from the left and eventually hit a powerful low shot which squirmed under the body of Marriott and into an empty net.
With the Stags now on the back foot, Magnay tried his luck with an ambitious and somewhat speculative 30-yard pile-driver on the hour-mark, which thankfully flew over Marriott’s woodwork and landed on the athletics track located behind the goal.
Striker Matt Rhead replaced Owens as Paul Cox used the final substitution available to him midway through the second-half, but on 71 minutes Mansfield’s misery was further increased when the hosts grabbed a somewhat bizarre third goal.
The Stags defence were unable to deal with a routine set-piece into the area as a speculative right-wing free-kick by Bush evaded everyone and found the net after it bounced in the six-yard box infront of a despairing Marriott who could only get fingertips on the ball.
Matters soon went from bad to worse as right-back Beevers received his second yellow card on 83 minutes after a strong challenge on the impressive Gillies.
Gateshead completed the rout four minutes from time when substitute James Marwood exploited the empty space down the left flank which was left following Beevers dismissal, by drilling a low cross into the middle for Fisher to ruthlessly fire home from an acute angle.