As you progress up the football pyramid, the quality of the players and football improves.  Two matches yesterday were a pretty good example of the English footie pyramid in operation.

In front of a 2,500 record-breaking crowd, our very own Dunston UTS took on (very) near neighbours Gateshead FC in the FA Cup.  The TV cameras were there too, just to add to the “big occasion” feel to the match.

A 12.30 kick off meant that I could also take in the Ryton & Crawcrook Albion v Billingham Synthonia Division Two match.

First up:  Dunston.  They’ve done fantastically well to get this far in the FA Cup, but they just couldn’t quite bridge the gap in quality between the two teams.  The 4-0 win for Gateshead was perhaps a little flattering for the visitors, but once they’d scored in the fourth minute, it was always going to be an uphill struggle.

As you’d expect, Dunston showed character.  They responded well to going behind to the early goal with shots by Mark Fitzpatrick and Liam Brooks, but Gateshead extended their lead in the 15th minute.  Five minutes later Dunston keeper Karl Dryden pulled off a good save, diving down to his left.

The second goal also heralded Dunston’s best spell of the match, with their most promising attacks coming down the left with Daniel Halliday, Brooks and Jack Elliott combining, but the game effectively beyond them with a third goal by the visitors just before the half-time whistle.  It was a real setback for the home team, who had held their own since the second strike.

They tried to get some momentum going in the second half with chances for Liam Thear, Jake Stafford and Fitzpatrick, but they suffered a further setback when Thear had to be helped off the pitch after being brought down just outside the Gateshead area.

A mix-up between Michael Pearson and Dryden almost allowed Heed striker Luke Armstrong in, but Pearson recovered to clear the danger.

Dunston conceded a fourth goal in the 77th minute and were denied a penalty in the closing stages of the game with a coming together of Scott Heslop and former Newcastle centre half Mike Williamson, but referee Martin Wood waved away Dunston appeals for a spot kick.

Minutes later their FA journey was over, but it’ll live long in the memory at Wellington Road.

It was a short (ground) hop to Ryton’s ground for their second division game against Billingham Synthonia – a long way away from the National League where Gateshead ply their trade.

This wasn’t one of the better Division Two matches of the season so far.  It was short of quality and chances.

Synners started the better of the two.  Ben Pollock should have put them ahead in the second minute when he intercepted a Ryton clearance but hooked the ball over the bar with only the keeper to beat.  It was almost 20 minutes into the game before Jamie Dunn had Ryton’s first effort on goal.

At the other end, Kallum Hannah could have scored with two chances in the 23rd and 24th minute.  His first shot was saved by Ryton keeper Stefan Holden diving down to his right and the Synners No. 10 squandered a better chance when he somehow missed the target with Holden well away from his line.

Dunn came closest to scoring for Ryton in the 39th minute with a powerful shot from outside the box.  The ball bobbled just in front of Synners keeper Callum Roberts who managed to get a hand to it to push it out for a corner.

Minutes before the half-time break Ryton had a couple of half chances: Scott Jasper put a header over and Kallum Broadhead couldn’t get a first-time shot on target.

There were fewer attempts on goal in the second half:  Thomas Bligh putting an ambitious shot just over the bar for Synthonia and Roberts managing to claw the ball away before Ryton’s Callum Turnbull could get a shot away.

The stalemate was finally broken in the 84th minute when Pollock hit a free kick low and hard, managing to squeeze the ball in between post and Holden.

Dunston UTS 0 Gateshead FC 4 – Emirates FA Cup 4th Qualifying Round

Ryton & Crawcrook Albion 0 Billingham Synthonia 1 – Ebac Northern League Division Two

Mike Snowdon