Non-League Football: Another force rises on Tyneside

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The Independent Online
The Premiership leaders, Newcastle United, are not the only footballing success story on Tyneside this season. On the south side of the river, Gateshead are enjoying their best campaign for years, and could claim second place in the GM Vauxhall Conference if they beat Kettering at the International Stadium tomorrow.

The successors to the club of the same name who lost their place in the Football League in 1960, Gateshead have a realistic chance of promotion to the Third Division. The facilities at their home ground, which is more famous for hosting high-profile athletics events, ensure they would not suffer the same fate as Kidderminster and Macclesfield, both denied access to the Endsleigh League because of problems with their grounds.

The man behind their rise is Colin Richardson, who took charge at Gateshead two years ago. He won 25 trophies at his five previous clubs - Ferryhill, Whickham, Newcastle Blue Star, North Shields and Bridlington Town - and he is still hungry for more.

Richardson firmly believes his side can win the Conference this season. "That's what we're all in it for," he said last night, as he looked forward to extending his team's run of six wins in their last seven matches. "We're scoring goals now and not giving them away. We've changed a few things for the better."

Unlike some of their rivals in the Conference, who have paid out sizeable fees to strengthen their squads, Gateshead have signed their five recruits this term on free transfers: strikers Dean Trott from Northampton, Paul Thompson from Hartlepool and Sam Kitchen from Doncaster, plus midfielder Derek Ord from Gretna and goalkeeper Sean Musgrave from Sunderland. Richardson is so confident in his squad's ability that he has allowed the club's top scorer for the past two seasons, Paul Dobson, to move on to Bishop Auckland for a four-figure fee.