"There are only 13 senior players available - and two of those are goalkeepers" - FC Halifax Town v Gateshead: Opposition Focus

We spoke to long-standing Gateshead FC journalist Jeff Bowron for the lowdown on FC Halifax Town’s opponents in the FA Trophy final on Sunday.
Mike WilliamsonMike Williamson
Mike Williamson

In what shape do Gateshead go into the final in generally speaking?

In poor shape in terms of numbers, in good shape in terms of form after an impressive end to the season and a very good 2023 in general after a difficult first half of the campaign.

How is the mood in the camp would you say?

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One of resilience and defiance given the hand they have been dealt for the final. They are a tight group who are used to overcoming obstacles and setbacks. The mood in the camp is good and looking forward to a first trip to Wembley in the FA Trophy.

Did the team end the season in good form?

They did indeed, winning eight of their final 11 league games, a run that included six straight wins that distanced themselves from the relegation pack. They also reached Wembley for the second time after beating Barnet in the semi-final on penalties after squandering a three-goal lead.

Who will be Gateshead's dangermen and why?

Former Town loanee Aaron Martin has had a torrid first season on Tyneside but came good at the back end of the season and will lead the line in the absence of the cup-tied Marcus Dinanga. Greg Olley and pacey attacker Adam Campbell can cause any side in the division problems with their quality.

Which players will Gateshead be missing because they're ineligible?

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Tom Allan, Elliot Forbes, Lewis Knight and player-manager Mike Williamson all miss out through injury. Dinanga, midfielder Connor Pani and attacking wide man Stephen Wearne are all cup-tied. Young midfield trio Lirak Hasani, Harrison Clark and Lewis Leech are ineligible due to being out on loan at the time of the semi-final, along with left-sided defender Kyle Errington.

How much of a blow was it for them to lose Ethan Pye from his loan?

It was a blow because it was unexpected and came just ten days before the final. Also, because he has done well and been a regular for the full season on loan from Stockport County. Pye was named Player's Player of the Year. It was a setback that was softened by the return of England C defender Kenton Richardson after two months out, but Pye's departure further depleted numbers.

How much of an impact will those missing players have on the team do you think?

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Half the side that finished the season won't feature in the final and there are obviously good players that will be missed. However, the starting eleven at Wembley will still be strong and will believe they can get the job done.

What's Gateshead's style of play, what can Halifax expect to come up against?

The switch to a back three has been a key factor in the Heed's revival. By nature they are an attacking side that likes to get on the front foot and dominate the football. That won't change at the home of football. They like to play through the thirds but can also mix it up and go long when necessary. Their style is easy on the eye and under Williamson they have a reputation for playing the game the right way.

Gateshead have already won two games in the competition this season on penalties - would they fancy their chances if it went all the way on Sunday?

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James Montgomery saved two penalties in both the quarter-final win over Farsley Celtic and the last four win over Barnet. He is a bit of a spot kick specialist so will be a good man to have between the sticks if it goes all the way, assuming he gets the nod over Aston Villa loanee Filip Marschall. Gateshead scored eight of their nine penalties in the shoot-outs, so that will also give them confidence if the final goes down to the wire.

What's your predicted line-up?

The line-up for the FA Trophy final virtually picks itself as there are only 13 senior players available - and two of those are goalkeepers. Former Sunderland striker Will Harris will be on what is likely to be a five-man bench, all aged 21 or under, including three academy players. Richardson will replace the departed Pye alongside Louis Storey and Robbie Tinkler in a predicted back three. Experienced back-up defender Carl Magnay is likely to play the midfield anchor role he was handed against Barnet in the semi-final. Middlesbrough loanee and Player of the Year Kamil Conteh, captain Greg Olley and Owen Bailey will complete the Heed engine room. Martin will lead the line against a Halifax side he was part of last season during a loan spell from Harrogate Town. Influential top scorer Adam Campbell and Dan Ward provide the width. Marschall, Harris and teenage striker Oli Thompson will be substitutes along with a couple more academy players.