Gateshead 1 Boro U21s 3
ITS two wins from two for Boro's U21s in the group stages of the Final Third Development League Cup. Writes GORDON COX from the International Stadium.
A lively, energetic start saw plenty play between both boxes but not too much in them.
It wasn't until the 15 minutes that either side managed to create enough space to have a shot in anger. When it came it was Callum Cooke, set up nicely, who drilled low at goalkeeper Alex Baird from the edge of
A deep cross from right-back Craig Baxter just up from the left-hand edge of the Boro penalty area picked out James Brown at the back post, but his header didn't carry enough direction to get past Joe Fryer.
Lewis Guy was next to threaten the Boro rearguard and the visitors certainly knew they were in a game.
Both sides continued to play an open game and it was Boro who nearly edged in front after 25 minutes when Robbie Tinkler rose high to meet a right-wing Priestly Griffiths corner, only to see his header cleared off the line.
It took an excellent block from Bradley Halliday to deny Michael Rankine when Gateshead next worked their way into the Boro box, but Matty Pattinson was well off target with a 22- yard drive a minute later.
When Scott McCarthy was sent through on the half hour Gateshead's back line had been breached, but a fine low shot was matched with an equally good save from Baird, well positioned.
An excellent swerving shot from Guy 25 yards out at an angle had Fryer at full stretch. The Boro goalkeeper did well to parry but was grateful that Andre Bennett was there to tidy up as white shirts descended like vultures sensing easy pickings.
Two minutes from half-time it was Cooke's turn to try from distance, a 30-yard low drive well saved by Baird who was in action a couple of minutes later when Junior Mondal shot low from an angle. Good defending from Baxter had done enough to just take the edge off the effort.
Half-time Gateshead 0 Middlesbrough 0
After an opening couple of minutes where Boro probed, suddenly they got behind the Gateshead defence only for McCarthy to be hauled back by left-back Ryan Wilson.
Nothing much came from the free-kick, but the ball did eventually land at the feet of Cooke, but from the edge of the area there was to be no repeat of his terrific strike at Reading last Friday as this shot was never near to troubling the scorers.
A very positive start to the second half saw Boro nearly take the lead after 52 minutes when great and determined work from McCarthy saw him get the better of two defenders and cross low into the box. The ball looped up nicely and Mondal saw an overhead effort cleared off the line and a Fewster follow up was deflected over the bar.
Pattinson made good contact with a shot from 25 yards, but it was at a good height for Fryer and he dealt with it comfortably.
Boro didn't have long to wait to make the breakthrough their second-half performance deserved as, with 57 minutes played Bennett crossed deep from the right and Dael Fry powered in a header at the back post that even brought applause from the Gateshead fans. It was his second in two games following an injury-time equaliser at Reading.
When Cooke sent McCarthy away down the right Gateshead were stretched and after beating Baird with a low cross the Boro winger was thwarted by centre-half Callum Howe who slid in just ahead of Fewster to clear.
Cooke again was in the thick of the action minutes later, bringing a smart save from Baird with a stinging drive from the edge of the area that ended a powerful run through the middle.
A spectacular volley from Pattison 14 yards out very nearly brought Gateshead level, but with Fryer beaten it thudded back off the goalkeeper's right-hand post.
Boro broke and a sweeping move ended when Baird denied Fewster, producing another save to parry a well-struck Bennett volley despatched from the edge of the penalty area.
There was nothing he could do as Boro all but wrapped the game up on 81 minutes as Jordan Jones outpaced everyone with a run down the left before cutting in and beating Baird with a very neat finish.
There was still time for late drama as Michael Rankine drilled powerfully beyond Fryer from the edge of the area on 88 minutes, only for Callum Cooke to score a goal his performance deserved a minute later. His second in as many games coming from a low shot drilled in from 20 yards.
Gateshead: Baird; Baxter, Wilson, Pattison, Howe, Allan, Finnigan, Ramshaw (Capt.), Rankine, Guy, Brown (M Briggs 72). Subs: D Briggs, Wilson, Marshall, Cummins.
Boro: Fryer; Bennett, Fry, Atkinson, B Halliday (Capt.), Griffiths, McCarthy (Kitching 84), Tinkler, Fewster, Cooke, Mondal (Jones 70). Subs: Coddington (gk); Burn, Maloney.
Referee Ross Joyce