Gateshead 0-0 Darlington
Gateshead's 80 year wait for a first Wembley appearance continues after they were unable to break down a resolute Darlington in a disappointing FA Trophy semi-final 2nd leg at the International Stadium.
The goalless stalemate saw very little in the way of goalmouth action to ignite an expectant Gateshead crowd that almost filled the Tyne & Wear stand and spilled over behind the goal at the south end of the ground.
Darlington were also heavily backed in a 5,000 plus crowd and it was joyous Quakers fans who invaded the pitch after the final whistle to celebrate reaching Wembley for the third time in their history.
While the first leg had been action packed, thrill a minute stuff this turgid affair was the exact opposite as Darlington got men behind the ball and harried Gateshead throughout affording Ian Bogie's side little space.
The Tynesiders threats were nullified and they hardly mustered a shot at goal in the entire 90 minutes, though Gateshead had the better of the first half and at the half way stage there was hope of a second half beakthrough.
Unfortunately the stifled Heed rarely looked like scoring after the break, the one chance falling to Jon Shaw who was denied by a superb goal saving tackle by Quakers captain Ian Miller.
Former Gateshad loanee goalkeeper Sam Russell was well protected throughout, Gateshead's front two, Shaw and Natha Fisher, feeding on scraps.
However, on loan Morecambe winger Adam Rundle twice got in down the left but on each occasion couldn't find the ball to set up the incoming Shaw.
Rundle's first driven cross was held by Russell at the near post and then, after leaving Paul Arnison and Aman Verma for dead on the left side of the box, he smashed a cross shot across the face of goal.
Earlier the fit again Tim Deasy had to race out of his goal in the second minute to head clear and then Fisher was just unable to get on the end of Rundle's lob into the box.
Liam Hatch had a shot deflected wide off James Curtis and then Shaw failed to pick out Fisher after Michael Liddle had chipped a good ball into the left channel.
A Rundle foul on Marc Bridge-Wilkinson almost saw Darlingtton take a 24th minute lead, Hatch's header from Aaoron Brown's curling free kick coming back off the bar.
Darlington's set plays caused problems throughout the game while Gateshead's, for once, were largely ineffective.
After Rundle had twice fashioned openings a Ben Clark foul on John Campbell saw Bridge-Wilkinson's long range set play sail over the bar in stoppage tme.
The second half was a frustrating affair for the home faithful as Darlington smothered Gateshead who lacked the guile to unlock the Conference premier's third best defence.
Their only chance came from a Jamie Chandler error on the hour. Shaw was in on goal but couldn't pull the trigger and was denied by Miller's important challenge.
Verma headed wide at the near post from a Brown corner as Darlington, comfortable despite leading the tie by a slender one goal margin, enjoyed more possession in the second period.
Arnison's pull back saw the dangerous Hatch's shot deflected over the bar while Bridge-Wilkinson's angled shot from Hatch's header failed to trouble Deasy.
In truth both keepers were under-worked and as the game entered the last ten minutes Gateshead's forays became increasingly desparate.
James Marwood found fellow sub Craig Nelthorpe on the left but the winger's cross was over cooked and a rare opportunity went begging.
The Tynesiders forced their first corner of the second half in the 82nd minute and almost took the game into extra-time in stoppage time.
Clark helped on a Nelthorpe cross but the ball looped up off Fisher and was easily held under the crossbar by Russell.
Darlington had survived without too much trouble and, after a nightmare season in 2009/10, will relish a rip to Wembley on May 7th to face Mansfield Town.
For Gateshead the dream is over for another year. After leading by two goals in the first leg it is very much a case of what might have been.
Bogie's boys have pulled up just short but a semi-final place in the FA Trophy, the 1st round in the FA Cup and a top ten finish - if achieved - will represent another season of significant progress.
Gateshead: Deasy, Tavernier, Liddle, Gate, Curtis, Clark, Brittain (Marwood 78), Turnbull, Shaw, Fisher, Rundle (Nelthorpe 69)
Subs (not used): Farman (gk), Jones, Offiong
MATCH FACTS: Attempts On: 2, Attempts Off: 3, Corners: 7, Offsides: 0, Fouls: 14, Yellow Cards: 2
Darlington: Russell, Arnison, Burn, Chandler, Miller, Hatch, G.Smith, Brown, Verma, Bridge-Wilkinson, Campbell (Modest 54)
Subs (not used): St.Louis Hamilton (gk), Wright, Senior, Gray
MATCH FACTS: Attempts On: 2, Attempts Off: 7, Corners: 6, Offsides: 8, Fouls: 10, Yellow Cards: 1
Referee: Mark Heywood (Northwich)
Phil Turnbull. Photos by Martin Avery & Steven Hadlow.