Thunder leave it to grab win

GATESHEAD Thunder claimed a dramatic last-gasp Co-op National League Two win over bottom club Blackpool Panthers after a first-half horror show was put right in a nail-biting second-half.

Gateshead Thunder 28, Blackpool Panthers 26

GATESHEAD Thunder claimed a dramatic last-gasp Co-op National League Two win over bottom club Blackpool Panthers after a first-half horror show was put right in a nail-biting second-half.

The Seasiders were on course to end a 27-match losing run when they led 22-4 at half time as a high error and penalty count had put Gateshead on the back foot against the NL2 whipping boys.

Thunder however put a dismal first-half performance behind them and drew level after Blackpool were penalised for offside in the last minute. On loan Castleford Tigers forward Michael Knowles, who contributed 10 points on his debut, held his nerve to kick a 30-metre penalty to complete the second-half fightback.

It was another Jekyll and Hyde performance from the Tynesiders who were second best all over the pitch in a lethargic first-half display. Odell Harris had taken Neil Thorman’s pass to give Thunder a second-minute lead but an inability to hold onto the ball and the concession of soft penalties soon handed Blackpool the initiative.

Melvin Alker exploited weak defence to get the Panthers up and running, a Craig Campbell penalty stretched the lead and then centre Carl Jones dived over in the tackle. After Simon Holden had a try ruled out for a forward pass Phil Cantillon converted Martin Gambles’ grubber kick as Thunder fell further behind.

But the home side set the scene for a barnstorming fightback in the second half when captain Pat Williamson ran onto his own kick through in the opening minute.

Two tries in five minutes confirmed Thunder’s improvement with Knowles and Dylan Nash both crossing on the left before the hour. Blackpool, however, scored with their first attack of the half when Alker grabbed his second in the 63rd minute before Thorman evaded several challenges to touchdown with Knowles’ conversion levelling the scores. Knowles then missed a penalty following a Steven Bradley break.

As the home contingent of the poor 145 crowd held their breath, Knowles’ penalty denied Blackpool a share of the spoils and kept Thunder’s play-off ambitions alive.

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Stuart Rayner
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