Gateshead Reserves 2
Sunderland Reserves 2
Neville Pilkington reports
SUNDERLAND Reserves’ entertaining Totesport Cup tie ended all square at a chilly International Stadium last night.
The group game had looked won for the visitors as they eased into a two-goal lead, but Gateshead hit back with a crucial goal just before the break, and they equalised after sustained second-half pressure. The match could then have gone either way.
Blue Square Bet Premier side Gateshead fielded a strong team, who have all played for the first team, while Sunderland only added David Healy to their usual young side.
After a quiet opening, Healy duly obliged with a well-taken opening goal on 13 minutes. Adam Reed threaded in a delightful through ball which split the heart of the home defence, allowing Healy to go on and cleverly round keeper Paul Farman before rolling the ball home.
On 28 minutes, a flick by Matthew Fletcher sent Blair Adams clear, but Farman pulled off a great save. From the corner, Keith Bertschin’s side went two up.
Reed made it an inswinger and defender Dan Madden rose to power home a magnificent header into the far corner from eight yards.
It could have been three, but Farman made another great save from a Billy Knott volley heading for the top corner.
However, Gateshead came back with a goal before the interval when winger Craig Nelthorpe hit a fierce shot into the far corner, giving Sunderland keeper Trevor Carson no chance.
The hosts came back strongly in the second period and only super saves by Carson, denying Carl Jones and Alan White, kept the lead intact until the 67th minute when the pressure paid off with striker Brian Wake getting ahead of his marker to flick in a header from a right-side cross.
It was end to end play in the closing stages and sub Jordan Laidler could have clinched it for Sunderland when he worked himself into a good position only to miskick the ball wide.
Craig Lynch also headed straight at the keeper in a frantic finale, but it finished honours even at the final whistle.
The draw means Sunderland have taken four points from their first two group ties, with one game to come against Hartlepool. The sectional winners will progress to the next stage.
Admirably taking in the game from the stand on crutches was injured Sunderland midfielder David Meyler and team-mate Fraizer Campbell, while Huddersfield manager Lee Clark and assistant Terry McDermott were also present.
GATESHEAD RES: Farman, Baxter, Brown, Winn, White, Jones, Baptist (Gillies 60), Ferrell, Wake, Allan (Schimmer 66), Nelthorpe.
SUNDERLAND RES: Carson, Weir, Madden, Laing, Adams, Reed, N Wilson (Egan 60), Lynch, Healy (Laidler 74), Fletcher, Knott (Marrs 81)
Ref: Steve Smith (Darlington)