Mikey Roberts scored a hattrick as Stockton Town dispatched Gateshead in the Durham Challenge Cup.
Michael Fowler got the opener before substitute Roberts netted a hattrick to seal comfortable win over a youthful Gateshead outfit.
Manager Michael Dunwell named four changes from the side that beat Sheffield FC on Saturday. Niall Frampton was given the start in goal. Dan McWilliams returned from his three-match suspension. Cam Painter and Michael Sweet were also restored to the starting XI.
Gateshead, under Ian Skinner’s management, named four first team players in their line-up; Connor Pani, Jordan Hunter, Aidan Rutledge and Tom Allan.
The Anchors were forced into an early change when Sweet went down, he had just returned from a groin injury. He was replaced by Mikey Roberts.
Stockton had dominated the opening exchanges and took the lead when a slick move was finished off by Fowler who tucked home inside the six-yard box.
Kev Hayes had two good opportunities to increase Stockton’s lead but he was thwarted by goalkeeper Matthew Cassap on both occasions.
First he combined with Fowler before sending a curling effort towards goal which Cassap clawed out.
He then met the ball with a header which Cassap managed to get a hand to.
The chances kept coming for the Anchors and Fowler went close as his audacious overhead kick attempt struck the bar.
In the 36th minute Stockton had their second when Cassap kept out Hayes once again but he could not deny Roberts who bundled the ball in for his first of the evening.
Gateshead were not completely out of the game and had a half chance when the fell kindly to Rutledge but he could not keep his effort down.
They were almost handed a lifeline when a heavy back pass from Adam Nicholson had to be slid away from his goal by Frampton.
Any Stockton worries were soon dispelled when they made it three before the break. The ball broke out nicely for Roberts who fired in a beautiful volley at the second time of asking.
Half Time: Stockton Town 3-0 Gateshead
The Anchors had the first chance of the second half when Hayes’s corner was headed over by Nicholson.
The Heed had a couple of chances to get on the scoresheet. First Allan sent a freekick narrowly over the bar, then Tom Coulthard had to clear off the line following an effort from a corner.
Stockton thought they had a fourth through a Nicholson header but he the referee ruled it out for a foul on the Gateshead defender.
It was clear that Gateshead were not even going to take a goal home to end the evening. Rutledge managed to work himself an opening before he rattled the bar. He was again denied when Dale Mulligan produced an excellent sliding block to prevent his shot from reaching the goal.
The Anchors evening was capped off with just over ten minutes remaining when Roberts took the ball down before he checked back and rifled an effort into the top corner to complete his hattrick. It was his first since one at Yorkshire Amateur in February 2022.
Stockton Town’s sublime night sees them through to the Durham Challenge Cup Quarter Final which equals last seasons run.
Full Time: Stockton Town 4-0 Gateshead
Next up is a huge home game against Belper Town.
Stockton Town: Frampton, King, McWilliams, Butterworth, Nicholson (D.Mulligan 67′), Coulthard, Hayes, Painter, Fowler (Bulmer 67′), Thompson (N.Mulligan 64′), Sweet (M.Roberts 7′)
Unused subs: C.Roberts
Gateshead: Cassap, Williams, Thynne, Archer, Pani, Colledge, Hunter, Storey, Rutledge (Ford 83′), Allan (Benjamin 63′), Lowery (Day)
Unused subs: Sharp, Leech
Goals: 1-0, 9 min, Fowler, 2-0, 36 min, Roberts; 3-0, 44 min, Roberts; 4-0, 79 min, Roberts
Words: James Cartwright
Photo: Harry Cook