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Cambridge United
Conference Premier Playoffs | Final
May 18, 2014 at 4pm UK
 
Gateshead

2-1

Hughes (51'), Donaldson (71')
FT(HT: 0-0)
Lester (80')

Preview: Cambridge United vs. Gateshead

Sports Mole previews the Conference playoff final between Cambridge United and Gateshead.

Cambridge United and Gateshead will square off in the Conference playoff final at Wembley on Sunday afternoon as both teams look to earn promotion to the Football League.

United, managed by Richard Money, haven't featured in the fourth tier of English football since suffering relegation in 2006, while Gateshead have enjoyed a prolonged period in non-league football and if successful at the weekend, they will feature in the Football League for the first time in over 50 years.

Below, Sports Mole takes a look at the form of both teams heading into the showdown in North London.

Semi-finals:

Cambridge United vs. Halifax Town (2-1 on aggregate)

After spending much of the season challenging at the top of the table, Cambridge's chances of promotion looked in doubt when a penalty from Lee Gregory gave Halifax Town a first-leg lead at The Shay.

However, Delano Sam-Yorke struck twice in the first half of the reverse fixture to put Cambridge in control, and United managed to hold out to book their place at Wembley.

Gateshead vs. Grimsby Town (4-2 on aggregate)

After Craig Disley had cancelled out Colin Larkin's opener in the first leg at Blundell Park, the match was very much in the balance heading into the second leg in the North-East.

James Marwood quickly gave Gateshead the advantage, and although Disley equalised for the Mariners, two dismissals severely dented their chances and after Marwood had scored a second, JJ O'Donnell netted in the final minute to move them one game away from promotion.

Head to head:

The first of this season's meetings between the two sides came all the way back in September as Cambridge edged out their opponents by a 1-0 scoreline.

The solitary goal came from Adam Cunnington, who fired home from close range on 16 minutes to extend United's early unbeaten run to eight games.

In the reverse fixture at Gateshead, the Tynesiders capitalised on an ineffective display from Cambridge to run out 2-0 winners at the Gateshead International Stadium.

Colin Larkin's cross found the back of the net after 18 minutes, before nine minutes from time, Rob Ramshaw tapped home from inside the six-yard box.

Current form:

After winning the FA Trophy final, Cambridge became one of the form teams in the division with 16 points from six games, but their performances tailed off towards the end of the regular season.

Ian Miller of Cambridge United lifts the trophy as his team celebrate during the FA Carlsberg Trophy Final 2014 at Wembley Stadium on March 23, 2014 © Getty Images

United lost their final four games without scoring a goal, and while that continued in the first leg of the playoffs, they turned things around with a morale-boosting victory over Halifax at the Abbey Stadium.

In sharp contrast to Cambridge, Gateshead have not suffered defeat since losing to Welling United on February 25, with their current unbeaten run stretching to 14 matches.

Key men:

Cambridge United - Luke Berry

Despite operating in midfield, Luke Berry will end the campaign as Cambridge's top scorer after netting 14 goals in 46 appearances in all competitions.

The 21-year-old is one of a number of players who have graduated through the club's youth system, but it wasn't until this campaign that he has started to fulfil his potential.

Berry has only netted five times since the turn of the year, but while he remains an integral part of the starting lineup he will continue to be a constant threat in the opposition's final third.

Gateshead - James Marwood

Like Berry, James Marwood has scored 14 times from midfield, and his double in the second leg of the playoff semi-final played a pivotal part in ensuring that the North-East outfit made it to Wembley.

That two-goal salvo equalled his number of goals for the previous 17 games, but a purple patch during the winter where he failed to hit the back of the net just once in seven fixtures proves his quality at this level.

The former Newcastle United trainee is likely to be a marked man during the 90 minutes on Sunday, but with the 23-year-old on a high, he could be the difference between his team gaining promotion or spending another year in non-league.

Prediction:

Gateshead manager Gary Mills stands on the touchline during a match against Oxford United on December 05, 2013.© Getty Images

Despite finishing the season behind Cambridge, it's hard to back against Gateshead capping off an excellent season with the ultimate prize.

It's been just two months since Cambridge recorded a comfortable 4-0 victory over Gosport Borough in the FA Trophy final, but that is unlikely to benefit them against an in-form Gateshead side who look confident in front of goal.

Gary Mills's team have failed to scored just once in 11 games, which came on a long trip to Braintree on a Tuesday night, and if they can take the momentum generated from their brilliant end to the season, they could run out 3-1 victors to earn their long-awaited returned to the Football League.


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Group A

TeamPWDLPTS
Q Germany Germany32107
Q Switzerland Switzerland31205
3 Hungary Hungary31023
4 Scotland flag Scotland30121

Group B

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Q Spain Spain33009
Q Italy Italy31114
3 Croatia Croatia30212
4 Albania national flag Albania30121

Group C

TeamPWDLPTS
Q England flag England31205
Q Denmark Denmark30303
Q Slovenia Slovenia30303
4 Serbia Serbia30212

Group D

TeamPWDLPTS
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Q France France31205
Q Netherlands Netherlands31114
4 Poland Poland30121

Group E

TeamPWDLPTS
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Q Belgium Belgium31114
Q Slovakia Slovakia31114
4 Ukraine Ukraine31114

Group F

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Q Portugal Portugal32016
Q Turkey Turkey32016
Q Georgia Georgia31114
4 Czech Republic Czech Republic30121


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