By George Williamson
The game itself was end-to-end, but with neither side clinical enough in front of goal to truly deserve all three points, it looked destined to end goalless.
That was until Sutton’s own goal sent the Super Whites home empty handed and ruing a couple of glaring opportunities and a touch of misfortune that denied them at least a point.
Both sides looked tentative in the early exchanges, with neither able to keep hold of the ball for an extended period.
Liam Ridehalgh created the first opportunity of the game in the 3rd minute, as his cross from a free-kick found an unmarked James Norwood in the area, but the striker couldn’t test Dan Hanford in the Gateshead goalkeeper.
Ollie Banks signed for Rovers on the day of the game and earned his first start immediately in this one. He almost took advantage of a poor clearance from Hanford and tried an ambitious chip over the keeper, but the ball landed on the roof of the net.
Gateshead midfielder Luke Hannant was booked for simulation midway through the first half, before James Norwood had a shot well blocked by Scott Barrow as the game began to open up.
Rovers keeper Davies produced the save of the first half though, diving low to his left to prevent a long-range effort from Jordan Preston from finding the bottom corner. The shot may have taken a deflection on the way through, but Davies was more than equal to the strike.
Hannant, Preston, Danny Johnson and Russell Penn all took pot shots at the Rovers goal that never tested Davies as the Heed began to turn the screw in search of the opener, but it was the Super Whites’ loanee Larnell Cole who squandered the best chance of the first half on the stroke of half time.
He was slipped in by Norwood, but when one-on-one with Hanford he tried to slot the ball beneath the onrushing keeper when the better option would have been to loft it over him. Hanford saved reasonably comfortably and both sides went in at the break ruing missed chances.
The second half started slowly, with Rovers probably just shading it without creating anything noteworthy, before Peniket was introduced on the hour mark for the hosts.
The change didn’t immediately work though, as Cole almost got onto the end of Norwood through ball but was beaten to it by Hanford.
As Rovers pressed, Micky Mellon made a pair of changes, one enforced and one tactical. Devarn Green came on for the dangerous Dylan Mottley-Henry, while Ridehalgh limped off for Evan Gumbs as injuries continue to plague Mellon’s side.
That seemed to signal a shift in Gateshead’s approach, and they also looked to push for a winner that, in truth, never really looked likely. Penn and Patrick McLaughlin missed good opportunities as the Heed continued to frustrate in front of goal, before Cook first failed to get on the end of a Gumbs cross, and then couldn’t control another header from the full-back seconds later.
As the game looked destined for a draw that would have been a fair result, substitute Peniket drove towards the Rovers goal and sent in a dangerous cross that Sutton deflected past Davies and into his own net to seal all three points for Gateshead.
Gateshead leapfrog Tranmere in the table after the result, and the Super Whites will look to rebound on Tuesday night against Macclesfield.
Tranmere XI: Davies; Buxton, Sutton, McNulty, Ridehalgh (Gumbs); Mottley-Henry (Green), Norburn, Banks, Cole; Norwood, Cook.
Gateshead XI: Hanford; Tinkler, Byrne, Fyfield, Barrow; Penn, Hannant (Maxwell), McLaughlin; Johnson, Burrow, Preston (Peniket).