Football: Stevenage survive first leg of Tyneside mission

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The Independent Online
Gateshead 1

Stevenage Borough 2

The Stevie Wonders were "gob-struck," to quote their manager, when they ventured inside St James' Park on Saturday lunchtime - and the Magpies' home nest was empty at the time.

It might not be bursting at the seams on Wednesday night - some 17,000 tickets remain unsold on Tyneside - but it will still be full enough to strike awe into the brave non-Leaguers from Hertfordshire. According to Alan Shoulder, the size of the crowd and the occasion could be the biggest thing in Stevenage Borough's favour when they square up to Newcastle United for the second time in 11 days.

Shoulder was a miner at Horden Colliery, on the Durham coast, when he played before an audience of 42,157 at St James' Park. He was the right- winger in the mighty Blyth Spartans team that took Wrexham to a fifth- round replay at the Newcastle ground 20 years ago.

"I went on to play for 10 years as a professional and it was still the biggest crowd I played in front of," he reflected. "We didn't have any nerves, probably because it was a new experience. It lifted us."

It lifted Shoulder to such heights he won a contract with Newcastle but it did not quite lift the Spartans high enough to claim a quarter-final tie with Arsenal. They were beaten, 2-1.

As fate would have it, Shoulder happened to be in charge of the spirited Gateshead team Stevenage defeated, with not a little difficulty, in the second round of the FA Trophy across the Tyne from St James' on Saturday afternoon. He stepped up from reserve-team managerial duties in the absence of the ailing John Carroll.

Paul Fairclough, the Stevenage manager, left Tyneside on Saturday night with a fresh worry. His team may have scraped past Gateshead on a sand- pit pitch, courtesy of two late goals by Gary Crawshaw (the first from the penalty spot), but they did so at a cost. Giuliano Grazioli departed with a badly bruised shin that might threaten his place in the Stevenage forward line on Wednesday. He would not be missed by the Toon Army - they have already seen enough of his goalscoring prowess.

Goals: Ord (45) 1-0; Crawshaw pen (77) 1-1; Crawshaw (90) 1-2.

Gateshead (5-3-2): Williams; Scott, Marquis, Lowe, Kitchen, Ord; Rowe, G Robson, Bowey; Innes (Sunderland, 81), Harkus. Substitutes not used: Proudlock, Wells.

Stevenage Borough (4-3-3): Gallagher; Dillnutt, Smith, Trott, March; Beevor, Fenton, Perkins (Inman, 60); Trebble, Crawshaw, Grazioli (Dixon, 36). Substitute not used: Wilmott (gk).

Bookings: Gateshead: Scott, Ord, Marquis. Stevenage: Fenton.

Referee: M Messias (York).

Man of the match: Williams.

Attendance: 902.