Mark Carruthers: Dreams of hosting the likes of Manchester City, Chelsea and Liverpool remain alive for Gateshead

Gateshead are North East non-league football’s last-man standing in the FA Cup - but a number of clubs from the region have made a memorable impact in this season’s competition.

Thursday, 21st October 2021, 11:27 am

I witnessed one of them push the Heed all of the way on Tuesday night as Marske United produced a performance laden with determination, belief and togetherness at the International Stadium.

No side that has faced the Seasiders this season will have been surprised that they were able to hold Gateshead to a goalless draw in the first meeting of the two sides on Saturday.

Nor would they have been surprised that Carl Jarrett’s men refused to lie down and fought back every time their hosts threatened to run away with the tie in Tuesday night’s replay.

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Mark Carruthers is back with his non-league view.

I have heard it said many times that Marske are direct, they have one style of play and they “do it well” - but that is a complete misunderstanding of the ability and qualities within their squad.

They have a number of options that allow them to rely on strength and power and possess an attacking threat that can make life very uncomfortable for opposition defences in strike duo Adam Boyes and Matty Tymon.

The missile-like throw-ins of Liam O’Sullivan would be a weapon that any manager or coach would be foolish to ignore and the set-piece delivery from Dale Hopson has provided a menace for many an defence over the last decade.

But I would severely baulk at any suggest Marske purely focus on being direct and making the most of set-pieces to get results.

Any squad possessing the likes of Curtis Round, Craig Gott and Hopson can not be pigeon-holed as such because all three are capable of producing very special moments and have done throughout their careers before and during their time with the Seasiders.

Speaking to key figures at Gateshead brought a similar opinion, with both Mike Williamson and Adam Campbell suggesting that Marske's high-intensity style of pressing made it uncomfortable throughout the 180 minutes of a fascinating FA Cup tie.

Williamson suggested he would be surprised if Carl Jarrett’s men do not gain promotion into the Northern Premier League Premier Division this season - and given what I saw on Tuesday night, I wholeheartedly agree.

Jarrett and his experienced coaching staff deserve credit for establishing themselves in step four of the non-league pyramid and when they secure promotion, they will remain a threat for clubs at a higher level.

I can’t discuss Marske without paying tribute to their support at the International Stadium on Tuesday night because the Seasiders faithful produced a noisy and colourful show of support for their side and more than played a part in providing a stirring soundtrack to a compelling cup tie.

They are a club on the up in all aspects.

Marske’s former East Division and Northern League rivals Morpeth Town were the other North East side to experience FA Cup heartache on Tuesday night.

I was fortunate enough to witness a driven and determined display help the Highwaymen to a battling 1-1 draw against York City on Saturday.

I don’t think it would be beyond the realms of fantasy to suggest that Craig Lynch’s side could and perhaps should have pulled off a shock result at the weekend.

The replay proved to be a step too far as the Minstermen claimed a 3-1 win in front of a bumper crowd at Craik Park thanks to a lethal display of finishing from the always prolific Kurt Willoughby.

It has been a strange season for Morpeth with their early-season struggles and the unfortunate departure of former manager Stephen Turnbull.

There has been an upturn in fortunes with caretaker manager Craig Lynch helping lift the club off the bottom of the Premier Division table - although they still remain in the relegation zone after a number of fellow strugglers picked up eye-catching results.

Morpeth’s squad is full of experience at a higher level and I can see them moving away from the lower-reaches of the table over the coming weeks if they take advantage of a run of six home game in seven over the next month.

There have been other eye-catching results from North East clubs in this season’s FA Cup with several Northern League sides producing shock wins against higher-level opposition.

Sunderland RCA’s 3-0 win against a Frickley Athletic side that are established in step four will live long in the memory and Newton Aycliffe’s 2-1 triumph at Tadcaster Albion also deserves recognition.

So too does Whitley Bay’s 5-2 win against a North Ferriby side that have become the scourge of Northern League opposition over the last 12 months.

But with the FA Cup now heading into the horribly described “proper” rounds, and former winners like Portsmouth, Ipswich Town and, of course, Sunderland, now entering the competition, Gateshead remain our last-man standing.

They now carry the hopes of the North East non-league scene and they will host National League play-off contenders Altrincham in the first round early next month.

Both sides will see the tie as winnable as they look to move within 90 minutes away from a potentially money-spinning third round meeting with one of the Premier League elite.

Dreams of hosting the likes of Manchester City, Chelsea and Liverpool remain alive for the Heed - and the dreams delivered by a number of clubs in this season’s competition will remain in the memory for a long time to come.

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