Gateshead 1 - 0 AFC Telford United

Gateshead are back in the Conference Premier after a decade outside of non-league's top flight - and are now just one promotion away from a coveted return to the Football League.

Ian Bogie's heroes clinched promotion from the Blue Square North when a late Wayne Phillips goal finally saw off AFC Telford United in the play-off final at the International Stadium.

For the second time in a week the kick-off had to be delayed due to crowd congestion outside the ground and the attendance of 4,121 was the highest for a competitive game at Gateshead for four decades.

With Telford bringing a thousand fans from Shropshire it provided an electric atmosphere, though it was the occasion, the final result and subsequent celebrations that will be remembered rather than the 90 tense minutes.

To achieve back-to-back promotions under the astute management of Ian Bogie, ably assisted by Gateshead legends Jeff Wrightson and Paul Thompson, is a tremendous achievement.

Chairman Graham Wood's input as chairman can also not be underestimated, and the hard work will now begin to make sure Gateshead make an impact in the Blue Square Premier.

The Conference North play-off final pitted the joint top leading scorers in the league, Gateshead, against the side with the best defence and Telford certainly thwarted the Tynesiders considerable attacking threat.

The Bucks were the better side in the first half when Gateshead managed only two efforts on goal, both well wide, and failed to force a corner.

Gateshead improved after the break and were the likelier side before Telford right back Lee Vaughan was sent off in the 76th minute for a second yellow card.

The winning goal was in keeping with a scrappy game as Phillips clipped a free kick into the danger area which was missed by everyone, and the ball nipped off the turf and past flat footed Bucks keeper Ryan Young.

The groundstaff had done a great job in preparing the pitch which was cut, rolled and suitably watered and was in great nick for the last game of a long season.

Unfortunately the occasion, and Telford's famed defensive capabilities, stifled Gateshead's threat and Bogie's men never got their famed passing game going in the first half.

There was very little goalmouth action in a predictably tense opening 25 minutes with Vaughan shooting high and wide from 30 yards for Telford.

A great angled ball from Lee Novak then put Craig Baxter in on the right side of the box but Gateshead's only ever-present produced neither a shot nor a cross and the opportunity was wasted.

Telford were growing in stature and only veteran keeper Paul Musselwhite, who was bringing down the curtain on a 23 year career, prevented the Bucks from taking a half-time lead.

Musselwhite saved Danny Carey-Bertram's header on the half hour and then made it a double save when he turned the front man's close range shot on the rebound past the post.

Jamie Harwood headed a deep Phil Cave cross over the bar at the other end and then an excellent Harwood cross was just too high for Graeme Armstrong.

Bertram was in again however when the flag stayed down despite the Bucks striker looking well offside, but again Musselwhite saved to keep Gateshead on level terms.

The Tynesiders faced another scare when three times they failed to clear a right side corner and Musselwhite had to get down low to save Andy Brown's shot by the foot of the post.

Gateshead had to improve after the break if they were to come out on top and the on loan Darryn Stamp provided fresh impetus up front.

The Tynesiders finally recorded their first shot on target in the 63rd minute when Phillips cut inside only for his shot to be blocked by a defender.

Harwood then glanced a header from a Phil Turnbull cross just wide as Gateshead began to get a grip in midfield.

Brown headed a deep Danny Edwards cross wide of the post and then Gateshead forced their first corner after 70 minutes when Baxter's stinging drive was deflected wide.

From the flag kick Phillips shot over from the edge of the box and it was the winger's clever flick that saw Vaughan handle the ball to pick up a second yellow card.

Kris Gate blasted a shot at goal three minutes later but claims for handball were waved aside, and then a foul on Baxter brought the all important goal eight minutes from time.

Phillips will surely never have scored a more important goal which sparked wild scenes both on and off the pitch, and then again at the final whistle.

Gateshead are back in the Conference Premier as the Bogie bandwagon continues to roll on and the likes of Luton Town, York City, Oxford United and Wrexham will be heading for the International Stadium next season.

Gateshead: Musselwhite, Baxter, Cave, Gate, Curtis, Jones, Harwood (S.Turnbull 87m), P.Turnbull, Armstrong (Stamp 55m), Novak, Phillips
Subs: (not used) Provett (gk), Dinning, Hocking

Att: 4,121

By Jeff Bowron.

Gateshead celebrate promotion to the Conference Premier 2008/2009

Gateshead celebrate promotion to the Blue Square Premier. Pic. by Martin Avery