Sutton's long trip north to Tyneside had a frustrating outcome on Saturday when, having easily done enough to deserve a point, they came back empty handed after substitute Rhys Oates, five minutes after coming on to make his debut having signed on loan from Hartlepool, punished one of the few moments of slack defending to score the only goal. The goal came after a spell in which U's had dominated but, for the second week running, they failed to turn that pressure in to goals and, while having given Chester a two goal lead they were always struggling, this time there is every probability that had U's scored in that stage they would have had at least a draw to show for their efforts.
Even in the first half, U's had come as close as the home side to going in front when Ross Stearn's corner was headed back across goal by Nicky Bailey, but Kevin Amankwaah's acrobatic attempt to turn the ball in just failed as the ball bounced wide. On a slippery surface after steady pre-match rain, and playing in to the wind, it was a confident start by U's but immediately after Amankwaah's near miss Jamie Collins just beat Wes York to Dan Johnson's low left wing cross and diverted the ball over his own bar, and from the resulting corner Mitch Brundle cut in from the left and forced Ross Worner in to a diving save with a curling shot.
Worner also had to tip over a York effort as Gateshead finished a generally undistinguished half quite strongly, but after the break it was a different story as U's took the game to their hosts. Again it was Amankwaah who might have given them the lead after Stearn had collected a short corner and turned neatly to chip a cross to the far post, but the defender's header looped back across goal and just wide. Soon afterwards another Stearn delivery, this time a free kick, was met by Bailey's firm downward header but York managed to get in to position to clear the ball off the line and also divert the follow-up effort from Bedsente Gomis.
With Dan Spence sending a shot just wide from 25 yards as space opened up in front of him U's looked much the likelier to break the deadlock, and the effectiveness of their performance at the back was emphasised just before the hour mark when the home side changed their front two, York and Johnson replaced by Oates and Reece Styche, but the change proved decisive. There seemed little danger when Jamal Fyfield collected the ball just inside the Sutton half, but as U's stood off the powerful centre back strode forward, and by the time he skipped past Dean Beckwith's challenge he was inside the left edge of the penalty area, and his low cross was stabbed in to the net by Oates.
U's response was a double change of their own as Ryan Burge and Chris Dickson replaced Stearn and Roarie Deacon, and Burge immediately delivered a corner that caused another scramble in the Gateshead penalty area that ended with Beckwith lifting the ball against the bar from close range, and penalty claims being waved away as Bailey looked to be impeded as he contested the rebound.
That was as close as U's were to come to rescuing the point that few could have begrudged them, and as they pushed for the equaliser they might have been punished further at the back, but Styche put a low whot on the turn too close to Worner, and in the closing minutes Paddy McLaughlin wasted an outstanding opportunity as he found himself clear on the left, but what followed was neither a shot, nor a cross which would have left Styche with a tap in, and rolled harmlessly wide.
Gateshead: S Johnson, J Bolton, G Smith, M Smith, L Hogan, J Fyfield, W York(sub R Oates 60), M Brundle, D Johnson(sub R Styche 60), G Mafuta, P McLaughlin. Subs n/u S Jones, D Hanford, T Ajala. Booked: Hogan, Styche, Fyfield.