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Page last updated at 16:43 GMT, Thursday, 14 May 2009 17:43 UK

If at first you don't succeed...

Paul Buckle
Boss Paul Buckle (right) looks on as Torquay lose the 2008 FA Trophy final

By Laura Joint
BBC Devon

Cambridge United and Torquay United have a lot in common.

They are both known as the Yellows (among other things), for a start.

More significantly, both clubs recently lost their Football League status.

Cambridge were relegated in 2005, while Torquay will be hoping their second season in the Blue Square Premier will be their last.

This time last year, both clubs were appearing in the play-offs and in Wembley finals… and losing.

For Cambridge, they suffered heartache in the 2008 play-off final, when, as firm favourites, they lost out to underdogs Exeter City.

And guess what? Exeter had earlier defeated their Devon neighbours, Torquay, in the play-off semi-final.

Torquay United
Torquay's fans packed Wembley for the FA Trophy final last year

Torquay meanwhile reached Wembley via another route, the FA Trophy final, which they lost 1-0 against Ebbsfleet United.

They now share the hope that 17 May 2009 will prove the turning point, the day when their fortunes at last take a turn for the better.

They face each other in the Blue Square Premier final at Wembley, with the prize for the winners being a much longed for return to the Football League.

Cambridge were runners-up in the Blue Square Premier and beat Stevenage Borough in the play-off semi-final, while Torquay finished fourth and eliminated Histon at the semi-final stage.

They were separated by three points, and Cambridge will go into the final as favourites.

That might suit Torquay who have themselves been favourites on previous occasions and fluffed their lines.

Memories of play-offs past

The Gulls have reached the play-offs on five occasions and have succeeded just once - gloriously, on a warm Wembley night in May 1991.

Their Division Four play-off final against Blackpool was the most exciting game of a topsy-turvy season.


It ended 2-2 after extra-time, and the penalty shoot-out went to sudden death after ending 4-4.

United goalkeeper Gareth Howells made it 5-4, and Blackpool's top scorer that season - Dave Bamber - shot wide, sending Torquay up.

In 1988 United, then under Cyril Knowles, lost out against Swansea City in the play-offs.

They suffered a similar fate in the play-off semi-final against Preston North End in 1995 and in the final at Wembley in 1998, when a penalty earned Colchester United a 1-0 win.

And then there was the Exeter City catastrophe last season.

At home in the play-off semi-final second leg, 20 minutes left to play and 3-1 up on aggregate, they then conceded four goals to lose 5-3.

The nightmare lingers long in the memory.

It's not been all bad

Torquay United
Torquay mourn dropping out the Football League in 2007

When United were relegated two seasons ago, most fans feared the worst - that it just would not be the same, not being in the Football League any more, especially after an uninterrupted run of 80 years.

In fact, it has been quite good fun.

United have been battling at the top of the table, not at the bottom, which is nice.

But should Sunday prove to be their final day in the Blue Square Premier, that would be even better.

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