At the third attempt Cambridge United won a Conference play off final and will next season be playing in League 2. They will be joining Luton Town as new comers up from the Conference.
Cambridge United overcame Gateshead at Wembley this afternoon 2-1. 19,613 attended this 8th Conference play off at Wembley. Liam Hughes opened the scoring with a header in the 51st minute and then Ryan Donaldson scored from a lovely free-kick on 71 minutes. Jack Lester, who was supposed to have retired from football scored on 80 minutes with a header to create a nervous end to the game.
Cambridge captain Ian Miller was stretchered off near the end of the game with a nasty looking injury. Having used all their subs, the Us had to continue with 10 men against a Gateshead onslaught. But hold-on they did. Amongst all the excitement, was the sight of Ian Miller in a wheelchair unable to climb the steps to receive the trophy to celebrate their return to league football.
A good effort by Gateshead who had a barnstorming end to the season to get themselves into the play-offs and then a win a visit to the final at Wembley. Can Gary Mills repeat this feat next season?
For Cambridge United they’ve spent 9 seasons in the Conference. They’ve finished 2, 14, 9, 17, 10, 2, 2, 17 and in their first season in the Conference 12th. Defeats to Exeter City and Torquay United at Wembley delaying their return. Their last season in League 2 (2004/05) included such opponents as Macclesfield Town, Lincoln City, Darlington, Boston United, Grimsby Town, Chester City, Rushden and Diamonds and they were relegated with Kidderminster Harriers.
Gateshead manager Gary Mills said on their defeat:-
We’ve done superbly well. We worked hard and the mental side can drain you. But we kept going and we didn’t quite finish it off.
We’re gutted of course. You get an opportunity of 90 minutes of football to get Gateshead back into the Football League and we didn’t quite do it. So it’s difficult to take at the moment but you have to bounce back. It’s not all happy days. You have to be stronger for it.
Cambridge United came into the football league in the 1970/71 season having replaced Bradford Park Avenue. The Grecians record has not been that great against United, it reads as P48, W14, D12, L24. Though the win at Wembley through a Rob Edwards goal in May 2008 counts for quite a bit!