THE HALF DECENT FOOTBALL MAGAZINE

Conference play-off final, 4pm

icon promotion18 May ~ Cambridge United face Gateshead in the Conference play-off final this afternoon. For Gateshead, victory would cap a remarkable turnaround since former York City manager Gary Mills took over in September. He inherited a side fifth from bottom of the table, but with only two defeats since Christmas they came into the play-offs as the division's form team. So unlikely was their run that defender James Curtis, a veteran of over 500 appearances for the club, had to cancel his wedding which was due to take place today.

"I really didn't think about what we would do if Gateshead got to the play-offs," said Curtis, who will now tie the knot on Tuesday instead. "It could be the best week of my life."

Mills's tactic of packing his side with small, technical midfielders playing a quick-passing game is close to paying dividends, and having taken the Minstermen up in 2011, he'll be hoping he can repeat the trick. That year York won the promotion final and FA Trophy double, a feat Richard Money and his Cambridge side are looking to emulate. United's season has almost mirrored Gateshead's, with an imperious first half of the campaign followed by an inconsistent 2014, which saw Luton overtake them and claim top spot.

The U's have an unenviable record in the promotion final, having fallen at the last hurdle in 2008 and 2009, when they lost to Exeter and Torquay respectively. However, Money is hoping their Trophy final experience, which saw them beat Gosport Borough 4-0, will stand them in good stead.

A Wembley win would certainly be a boost for Cambridge director of football Jez George, who is currently in the process of walking 26 marathons in 26 days, a total distance of 676 miles. Dubbed Mission 676, George is visiting every Premier League club and raising money that will be used to support charitable programmes helping 10,000 young people across Cambridgeshire. Even if the team fail to deliver at Wembley, U's fans can be proud of the impact their club is making in the community. Matthew Gooding

More information on Mission 676 and how to donate can be found here

 

 

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