Gateshead’s reward for winning their way through to the first round of the FA Cup for the fourth time in five years is hardly an appetising one.
No home comforts for the in-form Heed, instead a tough trip to League Two leaders Oxford United, whose Kassam Stadium, despite their lofty status, has not been a fortress this season.
The trip to the cathedral city was achieved by a gritty single-goal win at Conference Premier strugglers Chester, who have failed to score in their last four games.
The Heed’s unlikely goalscoring hero was long-serving central defender James Curtis, whose sublime left-foot volley 16 minutes from time removed the necessity of a replay on Tyneside.
For Gateshead boss Gary Mills it was an eighth win from his 11 games in charge, a record that has garnered unwanted interest from managerless Skrill Premier rivals Forest Green Rovers. Mills was delighted with a fifth win on the bounce and another clean sheet from a scrappy tie that will not live long in the memory.
“It is important we keep clean sheets as I am always confident we will create chances at the other end,” said Mills.
“We had to be patient in the second half and when the goal came it was an absolute beauty from Curtis.
“He won’t score a better goal. We dictated the game and, while Chester came into it a little bit after the break, we defended well when we had to.
“Bartlett then made a fantastic save near the end to make sure we won at the first attempt and we can now look forward to a trip to Oxford.
“It is a difficult tie but one we can get through. They are doing well at the moment but so are we and we will go there full of confidence.”
Gateshead picked up £12,500 in prize money by beating Chester, and total winnings will come to £30,000 if they can cause a first-round upset.