Relive Sports Mole's coverage of the Conference Premier playoff final between Cambridge United and Gateshead.
By Darren Plant, Reporter Filed: Sunday, May 18, 2014 at 15:00 UK
Last Updated: Monday, May 19, 2014 at 14:50 UK
Cambridge United have won promotion to League Two after recording a 2-1 victory over Gateshead in the Conference Premier playoff final at Wembley.
After a lacklustre first half, Liam Hughes gave Cambridge the lead after the break with a header from close range, before Ryan Donaldson curled home a 20-yard free kick against his old club.
Gateshead earned themselves a lifeline with 10 minutes remaining when Jack Lester headed into an empty net, but the Tynesiders couldn't force an equaliser that would have taken the match to extra time.
Read below to see how the action unfolded on Sunday afternoon.
3.01pmHello, and welcome to Sports Mole's coverage of the Conference Premier playoff final between Cambridge United and Gateshead.
3.04pmWhen it comes to playoff finals, it's widely believed that the Championship version is the one with the greatest reward, but for non-league supporters, their most significant jump is making the huge step into the Football League. There may not be the same amount of money involved, but when it comes to the potential glory, it's right up there with the best of them.
3.08pmThe team news is slowly coming in from Wembley. We will have full details of that coming up shortly.
3.12pmBefore we see how each team lines up, let's take a quick look back at what occurred during the semi-finals. After finishing as runners-up, Cambridge were paired with Halifax Town and after losing the first leg, it appeared as though all their time spent at the top of the table was going to be worth nothing. However, after five successive defeats, which also saw them fail to hit the back of the net on each occasion, they turned things around impressively to emerge with a narrow 2-1 triumph on aggregate.
3.15pmAs for Gateshead, they remained unbeaten for their final 12 league fixtures before going up against Grimsby Town in the semi-finals. After a 1-1 draw at Blundell Park, there was all to play for in the second leg, but Gateshead, spurred on by a crowd in excess of 8,000, capitalised on their opponents having two men sent off to eventually record a 3-1 victory on the night.
3.18pmAs you can see from our viewpoint at Wembley, it's a beautiful day in North London!
3.29pmCambridge boss Richard Money makes just one change to the team that started the second leg against Halifax Town. Liam Hughes, who began that match on the bench, has replaced Harrison Dunk. Former Manchester United player Luke Chadwick is also a substitute.
3.33pmGateshead manager Gary Mills has retained the same team that managed to see off Grimsby two weeks ago. After seeing them dispatch the Mariners, he clearly has faith in the team that got the job done on that day.
3.35pmHere is a picture of Gateshead going through their warm-up routine. I can assure you that there are a few more people inside the ground than you can see behind the goal!
3.37pmWe have just over 20 minutes before we get underway at Wembley. Let's take a look at who the key player could be for each side.
3.40pmCAMBRIDGE KEY MAN! After netting 14 times this season from midfield, it's hard to look past Luke Berry. The 21-year-old, who has graduated through the club's youth system, has only scored five times since the turn of the year, but after playing a pivotal part in his team's progress throughout the season, he could thrive on the opportunity to showcase his talent on the biggest stage.
3.45pmGATESHEAD KEY MAN! The goals have dried up for James Marwood during the second half of the campaign, but after scoring twice in the second leg of the semi-final, he could have rediscovered his touch at the perfect time. The 23-year-old, who began his career at Newcastle United, has been a regular fixture in the Tynesiders' lineup and with a chance to end his stay in the non-league game, he could rise to the occasion over the next couple of hours.
3.48pmPREDICTION! Cambridge may have finished above Gateshead in the league table, but it is tough to make them favourites to prevail this afternoon. Their victory over Halifax may have restored a bit of confidence, but Gateshead have been consistency impressive for the past three months, and if they can handle the surroundings and the big-match atmosphere, they should be able to emerge with the win.
3.54pmThe two teams have made their way onto the pitch at Wembley. The stadium is by no means full, but the players have emerged to a terrific reception from both sets of supporters.
3.58pmHere comes the national anthem. For most of these players, especially Gateshead, this will be the first time that they have observed it before playing arguably the biggest match of their careers.
3 minSAVE! Adam Bartlett announces himself on the Wembley stage with a stunning stop to deny Ryan Donaldson! The ball fell kindly to the Cambridge player on the edge of the area, but Bartlett was equal to it to turn it away for a corner.
5 minGateshead haven't been allowed get going in these opening stages. When they have got on the ball, they look too eager to play an ambitious ball to a teammate, but they are being easily cut out.
7 minBOOKING! Marcus Maddison has gone into the book for Gateshead after being adjudged to have dived. It was maybe a tad harsh, but he definitely didn't need any encouragement to hit the floor.
10 minCHANCE! After Delano Sam-Yorke wins a corner, the ball was swung in invitingly for Luke Berry, but he just failed to make a clear connection on the ball from six yards out.
13 minJohn Oster dances his away past a number of Cambridge players, but his cut-back was weak and comfortably cleared by United. That was as good as it has got for the Tynesiders so far.
14 minJames Marwood tries to add to his 15 goals for the season with a speculative effort from 25 yards, but he drags it harmlessly wide of the post.
16 minGateshead are beginning to settle into the match now. They are having more joy down either flank, and Cambridge are being forced to defend for the first time since kickoff.
18 minA floated ball towards the edge of the area is chested down by Jamie Chandler for James Marwood, but his volley is never threatening the goal.
20 minThis is developing into a fine contest. Cambridge dispossess Gateshead in the middle of the park, but after the ball is laid off to Luke Berry, his 20-yard strike was straight at Adam Bartlett.
20 minBOOKING! Tom Champion is the first Cambridge man to go into the referee's book after a late challenge on Ben Clark.
23 minBOOKING! John Oster is booked for Gateshead, but in truth, he should be sent off. He was booked for a challenge on Tom Champion, but moments earlier, he lashed out at the same player, or, to out it another way, he kicked him up the backside. The 35-year-old is a lucky boy.
24 minNow Marcus Maddison is a lucky boy! The midfielder has already been booked, and he should have arguably received a second yellow for a mis-timed tackle to stop a Cambridge break. That will be his last chance/
27 minSHOT! Jamie Chandler lets fly with a first-time drive on the edge of the box, but it's straight at Adam Smith.
31 minGreg Taylor has to intervene to stop a Gateshead attack, but he concedes a corner in the process. However, it comes to nothing, and Cambridge break, but the Tynesiders get back just in time.
35 minThe chances have dried up for both sides over the last five minutes or so, but it's Gateshead who are continuing to make the running. Gary Mills will be delighted with how they have responded from a poor start.
40 minThe heat looks be the main factor for the pace of this game subsiding. There has already been one drinks break, and the 22 players involved might be looking forward to another in five minutes time.
42 minGateshead mount a break down the right-hand side and Craig Baxter does well on the overlap to get a low ball into the danger area, but it's well defended by Cambridge.
4.49pmThe half-time whistle goes at Wembley and we are level at the break after a cagey opening 45 minutes. It started off brightly enough, but it's become a less-than-inspiring affair and either team will have to look to take the initiative during the second half.
4.52pmSo then, how do the half-time stats look? Well, unsurprisingly, Gateshead are dominating possession - they've had 64% of the ball, while they also shade the shot count with four attempts to Cambridge's two. I hope we see a few more than that after the break...
4.58pmThe major talking points at half time will be the referee's failure to hand red cards to John Oster and Marcus Maddison. The official may have missed the Oster incident, but he had little excuse not to send Maddison off.
5.04pmSUBSTITUTION! Cambridge boss Richard Money has made a change at half time. Harrison Dunk has been introduced in place of Delano Sam-Yorke.
48 minGateshead have started this second half on the front foot, but after a spell of possession, James Marwood's 25-yard shot is easily dealt with by Adam Smith.
50 minSAVE! Cambridge break with plenty of pace, and the move comes to an end when Harrison Dunk forces Adam Bartlett into a sprawling save to his right from 30 yards out.
51 minGOAL! Cambridge United 1-0 Gateshead (Hughes)
51 minCambridge take the lead! Harrison Dunk and Ryan Donaldson combined on the right before a cross found its way to the back post where Liam Hughes powerfully headed home from two yards. Now we have a game!
54 minIt's wrong to say that came against the run of play, but it was certainly unexpected. Cambridge have a spring in their step and they quickly earn a corner. Ryan Donaldson finds Liam Hughes once again, but his header is deflected over.
58 minSUBSTITUTION!Gary Mills has made a double change for Gateshead. JJ O'Donnell has come on for Marcus Maddison, while Liam Hatch has replaced Colin Larkin.
61 minThat change has resulted in Gateshead having a bit more possession, but Cambridge break through Tom Elliott, who drives a 20-yard shot straight into the hands of Adam Bartlett.
64 minLiam Hatch is offering a greater physical presence than Colin Larkin, and it nearly helps him creating an opening for himself, but a covering defender saved the day for United.
66 minSUBSTITUTION! Luke Berry is coming off, which is a bit of a surprise, but Cambridge are able to introduce Luke Chadwick
69 minSUBSTITUTION! Gateshead make their third and final change, with 38-year-old Jack Lester being introduced in place of Jamie Chandler.
70 minBOOKING! Tom Elliott takes the ball past Ben Clark on the edge of the penalty area but he immediately hauled down by the defender. Definite yellow.
71 minGOAL! Cambridge United 2-0 Gateshead (Donaldson)
71 minCambridge have one foot in the Football League thanks to a glorious free kick from Ryan Donaldson! It was perfection. The midfielder curled the ball over the Gateshead wall from 20 yards out and watched it drift just inside the post. He only left Gateshead last season too!
74 minHarrison Dunk was been lively since his introduction at half time and he tests Adam Bartlett for a second time with a swerving effort from 20 yards, but the goalkeeper is equal to it.
77 minSUBSTITUTION! Richard Money withdraws Tom Elliott from the action and replaces him with Adam Cunnington.
80 minGOAL! Cambridge United 2-1 Gateshead (Lester)
80 minGame on! Cambridge goalkeeper Adam Smith pulls off a wonder save to deny a Liam Hatch header from eight yards, but the rebound falls to Jack Lester, who heads into an empty net.
83 minGateshead are surging forward! Cambridge are parked on their own 18-yard box, and it allows Gateshead to press. The ball ends up with James Marwood, but his left-foot strike is pushed behind by Adam Smith.
85 minCambridge boss Richard Money looks concerned. His team are dropping further back, and they have no ambition to try to score a third. They are trying to see this out.
87 minCambridge attempt a break-away but it quickly comes to a halt when Harrison Dunk's shot is blocked. Back come Gateshead, and they look very panicky at the back.
89 minThis is a huge blow for Cambridge. They have used all of their substitutions, and Ian Miller is being stretchered off with an ankle injury! They need to hold on here or else it's going to be a long 30 minutes in extra time.
90 minThere will be seven minutes - SEVEN MINUTES - of added-on time. The announcement was greeted with boos from the Cambridge contingent, but it's probably justified. Miller is still down in the Cambridge half. This looks a bad one.
90+3 minAfter a lengthy delay, we are finally back underway. We will likely reach the 100-minute mark before the full-time whistle.
90+5 minYou can feel the tension at Wembley! This is a huge final five minutes!
90+6 minCHANCE! Gateshead are still pressing, but after a cross from the left arrived at the back post, Liam Hatch could only head wide from six yards. Big opportunity.
90+8 minCambridge earn a bit of breather after a Liam Hatch cross goes out for a goal kick. Two minutes to go!
90+9 minCHANCE! So, so close for Gateshead! The ball was delivered into the box for James Curtis to head the ball towards goal, but it just missed the far post from six yards out.
90+10 minFULL TIME! Cambridge United 2-1 Gateshead
6.00pmCAMBRIDGE UNITED EARN A RETURN TO THE FOOTBALL LEAGUE!
6.01pmThe full-time whistle goes at Wembley and Cambridge United have hung on to record a 2-1 victory and earn a return to the Football League for the first time in eight years! Gateshead gave it everything, but Cambridge just about deserved it.
6.02pmTh first thing that Richard Money says is that he is disappointed to have nearly seen a two-goal lead slip. RICHARD! YOU HAVE JUST WON PROMOTION AT WEMBLEY! ENJOY IT!
6.03pmCommiserations to Gateshead. They deserve so much credit for finishing in third place over the course of the season, and they will undoubtedly be one of the favourites for promotion next year, but today is Cambridge's day, and they deserve their success.
6.06pmThat will be all from our coverage of the Conference Premier playoff final. It was a drab first half, but the second half made it worth it! Congratulations again to Cambridge. Richard Money are done a fantastic job at the Abbey Stadium. Goodbye for now.