Gateshead 0 Barrow AFC 2

John Rooney’s superb first-half double ensured Barrow AFC finished the 2018/19 season with a victory, as they comfortably claimed the points at troubled Gateshead.

Hearing about the latest off-field shenanigans at the North-East outfit before kick-off, it put some perspective into how smooth the transition of ownership was at the Bluebirds earlier in the season.

While the Heed’s future looks uncertain, AFC can afford to be optimistic going into the summer, with a top-half finish in the National League safely secured, as are the services of manager Ian Evatt, who has done so much to breath new life into Holker Street.

The match at the International Stadium was effectively done and dusted by half-time, as two excellent finishes from Rooney put them in control and although they coasted through the second half, the result was never put in doubt.

After his stunning goal off the bench against Hartlepool on Monday, Josh Kay was in from the start for the injured Dior Angus, while Jack Barthram came in at right-back for Connor Brown, as Barrow made two changes to their line-up.

With the rebellious nature of the atmosphere, the football almost felt like an afterthought in the early stages, with Lewis Hardcaslte sending a shot from outside the box comfortably wide.

However, Rooney burst the game into life in the eighth minute when he bent a superb shot into the far corner from the edge of the area after taking a short corner and swapping passes with Hardcastle.

Gateshead’s defence had given all the time in the world to shoot, however, and with the amount of space they were giving AFC, openings were being created by the visitors all too easily.

Rooney then moved himself into double figures for the season after 22 minutes when Jack Hindle, who had been allowed to run unchallenged for around 30 yards, backheeled the ball into his path and the midfielder picked out the same corner.

Josh Granite and Rhys Norrington-Davies had to come up with a couple of good defensive headers, but on the whole the Bluebirds were in full control of this game.

Rooney came within a whisker of completing a first-half hat-trick when he sent a brilliant free kick from just under 30 yards crashing against the bar.

Barrow comfortably maintained their two-goal cushion into half-time, but it was almost halved within two minutes of the second half when Cameron Salkeld curled a shot narrowly over the bar from the corner of the box.

There was definitely far more intent about Gateshead, who had changed formation, after the restart and they were belatedly starting to give the Bluebirds a tougher game, albeit without testing Joel Dixon.

The match really was starting to have an end-of-season feel about it, with the instance of Heed goalkeeper Aynsley Pears coming out at the feet of Hindle a rare flashpoint.

Dixon was then forced into action at last when Steve Rigg robbed Granite on the byline before running into space and being denied by the Barrow goalkeeper at his near post.

It’s fair to say the Bluebirds were playing within themselves and Sam Hird got away with a moment of sloppiness, as he gave away the ball to JJ O’Donnell near his own area, only for Gateshead to butcher the chance.

Any chance the hosts had of forcing a close finish went when midfielder Tom White was foolishly sent off with eight minutes after picking up a second yellow card for dissent.

However, they should have had one back when Rigg somehow headed over from six yards after Greg Olley’s cross had found him completely free.

The Heed continued to press in the closing stages, as Rigg laid the ball off for sub Connor Thomson, whose shot was beaten away by Dixon, who managed to keep one last clean sheet.

Gateshead (3-4-1-2): Pears, Devitt (O’Donnell 45), Williamson, Mellish, Tinkler, White, Hunter (Maloney 67), Barrow, Olley, Rigg, Salkeld (Thomson 67)

Subs not used: Foden, McGeoch

Barrow AFC (4-3-3): Dixon, Barthram (Brown 75), Hird, Granite (Jameson 68), Norrington-Davies, Rooney, Taylor, Hardcastle, Hindle, Philpot, Kay (Molyneux 68)

Subs not used: Elsdon, Blyth

Referee: Simeon Lucas

Attendance: 798