When Stevenage and Torquay United go head to head this weekend both sides will be pinching themselves as they remember how far they've come in a relatively short space of time.

Both sides have come up from the Blue Square Bet Premier in recent seasons - the Gulls in 2009 and Boro last summer.

Now they are just 90 minutes away from a place in third tier of English football.

There was little to choose between the two sides at the semi-final stage, with both winning their first legs at home 2-0, with Stevenage beating Accrington Stanley and Torquay overcoming Shrewsbury Town.

In the second legs both matches looked set to finish goalless, only for Boro to net in injury time against nine-man Stanley.

Now they just one game away from promotion, in their first season in The Football League and skipper Mark Roberts knows this will be the highlight of his career.

Writing in his column in The Comet he said: "We are all focused on the job in hand but are full of confidence and cannot wait for Saturday to come.

"As a Manchester United fan who sat in the Stretford End as a boy it will be one of the proudest moments of my life leading the team out on to the hallowed Old Trafford turf.

"On a personal level it will be even bigger than captaining the team at Wembley but the day will only be one I wish to remember if we win the game.

"The final will see the climax to an unforgettable first season for Stevenage in The Football League."

Paul Buckle has been in charge at Plainmoor for almost four years and he's confident his side won't get carried away by the occasion on Saturday, as he told the West Briton: "They won't go away from doing the basics right and concentrating on their jobs.

"They believe they should be going to Old Trafford for the final. I think we are improving all the time. There is more to come from this team.

"But we are just focused on winning another football match. The prize comes afterwards."


Just one point separated the two sides in the npower League 2 table, so without the point deduction suffered by the Gulls, the sides would have been all square with 69 points.

The sides have only met on six previous occasions, with four of those coming in the Blue Square Bet Premier before Torquay and then Boro were promoted.

Stevenage will have to do what they've never done before if they are to win promotion to npower League 1 and that's beat their opponents.

Of the six meetings the Gulls have won four while the other two have finished all square.

When the sides met this season the first match at the Lamex Stadium, in September, ended in a goalless draw but Torquay took the upper hand in the return match in March. Goals from Danny Stevens and Jake Robinson, either side of Mark Roberts' red card for the visitors secured the three points for the home side.


Saturday is just the second time Stevenage has reached a Play-Off final, six years after their last one, when they lost 1-0 to Carlisle United back in 2005.

The following season they didn't reach finish in the top five which saw Manager Graham Westley leave the club after his contract wasn't renewed.

Their next Play-Off appearance came in 2009, when they took on Cambridge United at the semi-final stage, less than 12 months after Westley had returned as boss.

They eventually lost 4-3 on aggregate to the U's who were beaten in the final by their opponents this weekend.

Westley has also been in the Play-Offs with Kettering Town when he took them to the second in the Conference North. The two-legged semi-final ended 1-1 on aggregate before the Poppies were beaten on penalties by Farsley Celtic.

The Gulls earned their place in the Football League via the Play-Offs in 2009 when they took on Cambridge United in the Conference National Play-Off final at Wembley. Goals from Chris Hargreaves and Tim Sills earned Torquay their return to The Football League after a two-year absence.

Things haven't always gone so well for Paul Buckle's side in the final though after losing twice and winning once more since.

Their first experience came back in 1988 when the final was played over two legs. They faced Swansea City in the Division 4 final, eventually losing 5-4 on aggregate to the Swans.

Three years later they were back in the Play-Offs again when they faced Blackpool at Wembley. Goals from Wes Saunders and Dean Edwards sent the game into extra time and then penalties as the teams played out a 2-2 draw. Goalkeeper Gareth Howells scored the all-important penalty before going back in goal to face the spot-kick from Dave Bamber, who fired wide.

In 1998 they were at Wembley again, in the Division 3 Play-Off final but they didn't leave happy, as they went down 1-0 to Colchester United. Manager Paul Buckle, who also previously played for the Gulls, featured in the capital, when he lined up for the U's.

Just 12 months after they were relegated from The Football League, Torquay finished third in the league table and reached the Play-Offs, losing to local rivals Exeter City 5-3 on aggregate. The Gulls had won the first leg 2-1 and were leading 1-0 at St James' Park, only for the Grecians to score four goals in the last 20 minutes.


Darren Deadman will take charge of the match at Old Trafford, assisted by
Simon Barrow and Michael Bull, while Kevin Wright has been appointed Fourth Official.

The Referee from Cambridgeshire has taken charge of 29 games so far this season, issuing 109 yellow cards and five red, including two when Torquay lost 1-0 to Crawley in the FA Cup, earlier this season. Chris Zebroski was sent off for the home side on 61 minutes before Dean Howell followed for the Red Devils seven minutes from time.

Deadman has also taken charge of Stevenage this season when they took on Wycombe Wanderers back in October. He issued just three yellow cards as the Chairboys won 2-0 at the Lamex Stadium.

Saturday will see one of his dreams come true as his ambition as a National List Referee was to take charge of a Play-Off final.

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