A bright start saw chances at both ends. A JJ O’Donnell cross scrambled away before the Gateshead goalkeeper, one of nine unnamed trialists named in the squad, saved a low shot from Ashley Fletcher at close quarters.

A deep cross from Patrick Reading out on the left picked out Stephen Wearne deep in the box on the other side of the pitch, the youngster, however, was left frustrated as a header flashed wide.

When O’Donnell spotted Darren Randolph off his line, an audacious effort followed. One, 40 yards from goal, that wasn’t too far over. Neither was a volley from Connor Oliver from the edge of the box a few minutes later, a well-struck effort just clearing the bar.

Enterprising approach play created two more chances for Heed. O’Donnell fired just over, before Scott Barrow brought a smart save from Randolph with a shot from inside the box.

Three chances in quick succession quickened the pulses of the Boro fans as first Lewis Wing drilled just off target from the edge of the box, Wearne shot at the goalkeeper who was then tested properly for the first time when called to make a smart save, again from Wearne.

The opening goal came with two minutes of the first half remaining when the home side got into a bit of a mess when attempting to deal with a ball through the middle. It fell to Jonny Howson out wide and the skipper kept his head to convert an opportunistic strike with a low shot.  

Jonathan Woodgate made four changes at half-time, but before they had time to settle Gateshead had won a corner, Boro conceded a penalty (no-one in the ground was too sure of the offence) when trying to clear and Connor Thomson stroked home an equaliser with 48 minutes played.

When Luke Armstrong, one of three further changes made on the hour, took to the park he received a warm welcome from the Gateshead fans, acknowledgement for his services when playing for them.

It was the Boro fans who were in good cheer a few minutes later, the lead regained when Adam Clayton delivered a well-weighed pass over the top and Ashley Fletcher demonstrated quality in touch and finish to drill low across the goalkeeper.

The trialist custodian enjoyed a decent game and produced a smart save to keep out a powerful effort from Rudy Gestede, but there was little he could do to keep out a sweet 22-yard drive from Marvin Johnson as Boro wrapped it up three minutes from time.

Scorers: Howson 43, Thompson 48, Fletcher 66. Johnson 87

First half: Randolph, Howson (Capt.), Shotton, Flint, Reading, Wing, Wearne, McNair, Tavernier, Coulson, Fletcher.

Second half: James, Spence, Flint (Capt. to 72), (Wood 72) Shotton (Stubbs 72), Reading (Dale 72), Wing (Clayton 60), Tavernier (Armstrong 60), Saville, Wearne (Malley 60), Johnson, Fletcher (Gestede 72). Sub: Hemming. 

Gateshead: Trialist, Nicholson (Trialist 67), Barrow (Capt. to 67) (Trialist 67), Oliver (Trialist 46), Lees (Trialist 46), Williamson (Trialist 67), Thompson (Trialist 67), Olley (Trialist 55), Preston (Trialist 24), Agnew, O’Donnell. Sub: Forbes. 

Referee James Westgate.