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Wembley Stadium (ATT 19,613) 18th May 2014 - Kick off 16:00 Ref: P Bankes

Cambridge Utd Cambridge United vs Gateshead Gat'head

Cambridge Utd 2

L Hughes (51)
R Donaldson (71)

ft

Gat'head 1

J Lester (80)

Cambridge United beat Gateshead 2-1 to seal return to Football League

Last Updated: 18/05/14 7:04pm

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Ryan Donaldson: Celebrates crucial goal for Cambridge United

Ryan Donaldson: Celebrates crucial goal for Cambridge United

Cambridge United beat Gateshead 2-1 in the Conference Premier play-off final at Wembley on Sunday to secure a return to the Football League after a nine-year absence.

Goals from Liam Hughes and Ryan Donaldson, against his old club, put the U's in control but veteran striker Jack Lester pulled one back to set up a tense final 10 minutes for Richard Money's men.

However, the Heed could not find an equaliser and their 54-year wait to regain Football League status goes on.

For Cambridge, it was a second victory in less than two months at the national stadium after they beat Gosport 4-0 in March to lift the FA Trophy.

Donaldson, who swapped Gateshead for Cambridge last summer, almost gave the U's an early lead but Adam Bartlett was not to be caught cold and tipped away his long-range shot for a corner.

Money's men threatened again after nine minutes but Luke Berry could not get enough on his diving header.

The Heed, who were 19th in the table when Gary Mills took over as manager in September but finished the season in third place, settled after their early scare and began keeping possession well and causing problems.

James Marwood twice went close with efforts from outside the area before Jamie Chandler worked goalkeeper Adam Smith.

Smith, on loan from Premier League newcomers Leicester, had to be alert early in the second half to keep out another Marwood attempt.

Cambridge responded through substitute Harrison Dunk, whose shot was tipped wide by Bartlett, and they took the lead after 51 minutes when Donaldson's cross drifted over the keeper for Hughes to head home from two yards out.

Bartlett pushed over another header from Hughes shortly afterwards as the U's sought a second goal.

It came in the 71st minute after Ben Clark brought down Donaldson, who got to his feet and curled home the resulting free-kick from 22 yards out.

It was Donaldson's third goal at Wembley this season after scoring twice in the FA Trophy win over Gosport.

Lester, introduced from the bench just two minutes prior to Donaldson's strike, reduced Gateshead's arrears with 10 minutes remaining.

Liam Hatch's header was parried by Smith and the 38-year-old nodded the loose ball home from close range.

An injury to Cambridge defender Ian Miller saw the U's finish the game with 10 men but, despite the fact almost 10 minutes of stoppage time was added on for the incident, Gateshead could not find the goal that would take it to extra time.

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Matches

  • Vanarama Conference

    Sun 18th May - Play-off Final
    • Cambridge Utd
      2 - 1
      Gat'head
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Table

Vanarama Conference

Vanarama Conference
Pos Team P Pts
1 Bristol Rovers 36 70
2 Barnet 35 68
3 Macclesfield Town 34 64
4 Grimsby Town 35 62
5 Forest Green Rovers 36 59
6 Eastleigh 33 54
7 FC Halifax 31 54
8 Kidderminster Harriers 35 51
9 Woking 34 50
10 Gateshead 31 50
11 Chester FC 35 49
12 Lincoln City 34 48
13 Dover 33 47
14 Torquay United 33 46
15 Altrincham 35 46
16 Braintree Town 33 42
17 Wrexham 31 42
18 Aldershot Town 34 39
19 Welling United 34 33
20 Southport 33 33
21 Alfreton Town 34 31
22 Dartford 32 27
23 Nuneaton 35 27
24 AFC Telford United 34 23