IT’S NOT often a goal is greeted warmly by both sets of supporters.
But Gateshead fans clearly remember the contribution Lee Novak made to the promotion push which took them into the Blue Square Premier two years ago, while the Town faithful have always appreciated the striker’s workrate and eye for goal.
Having had limited opportunities last season, when injuries took their toll, the 22-year-old is out to impress in the build-up to 2010-11.
And he started the right way back on his old stomping ground of the International Stadium, where his 29th-minute glancing header separated two teams brushing off the close-season rust in their first friendly.
The cross, and a neat one at that, was supplied by Conor Sellars, the 19-year-old son of former Town midfielder Scott who played alongside Galpharm manager Lee Clark at Newcastle.
Released by Middlesbrough, the midfielder is on trial alongside Kris Thackray, a former St James’ Park junior who got on early opportunity to show his ability at left-back when Greg Pearson was forced off after taking a 10th-minute knock to a leg.
Clark erred on the side of caution with the early change, just as he did by leaving out new boy Calum Woods, Gary Roberts, Joey Gudjonsson, Scott Arfield, Danny Cadamarteri, Jack Hunt and Liam Ridehalgh after a tough week’s work on the training ground.
But Woods’ fellow new arrivals Oscar Gobern, who impressed in the first half, Liam Cooper, Tommy Miller and Donal McDermott were among the 22 who figured, with Clark sticking to his pre-match plan of changing his entire outfield side at the break.
Keeper Alex Smithies, kept out by a knee injury since mid-March, was the one constant, and will be pleased at keeping a clean sheet, with his 35th-minute save from Yemi Odubade, when he used his leg to block the frontman’s close-range shot, sticking in the mind.
Town had an escape when Micky Cummins cracked a fizzing shot against Smithies’ left-hand post, while the stopper saved smartly from former Newport player Odubade just before the break.
But Town had their first-half chances, most notably when Alan Lee’s header and Sellars’ shot were blocked in quick succession in the 22nd minute before keeper Paul Farman foiled Lee after he romped through from halfway and drove goalwards two minutes later.
McDermott tried his luck just 30 seconds after coming on for the second half – his shot was deflected for a corner – while on-loan Hull signing Cooper’s 58th-minute header from Chris Atkinson’s cross was cleared off the line by Kris Gate before Miller came close with a low shot.
Martin Brittain, Phil Turnbull and Gate were all on target for Gateshead, who gave a trial to centre-back Ewan Moyes, the nephew of Everton manager David, while Gary Mulligan’s 69th-minute header was well held by Smithies as Town completed a satisfactory afternoon’s work in front of a crowd of 604.
Gateshead: Farman (Deasy, HT), Odhiamgo (Gate, HT), Rents, Clark (Curtis, HT), Turnbull (Briggs, 82mins), Shaw (Mulligan, HT), Odubade (Brittain, HT), Cummins (Baxter, HT), Moore, Moyes, Nix.
Town 1st half: Smithies, T Clarke, Pearson (Thackray, 10mins), Kay, McCombe, Sellars, Gobern, Crooks, Chippendale, Lee, Novak.
Town 2nd half: Smithies, N Clarke, Naysmith, P Clarke, Cooper, Simpson, Miller, Atkinson, McDermott, Rhodes, Spencer.
Referee: Colin Webster (Chester-le-Street).