Cambridge United beat Gateshead 2-1 to seal return to Football League
Last Updated: 18/05/14 7:04pm
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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