When Hartlepool United and Torquay United arrived at Ashton Gate on Sunday 20th June, the target of a return to the Football League was tantalizingly close but what followed defied even the play-offs.
In the 35th minute, Luke Armstrong put the Pools 1-0 ahead after the disallowing of a header by Kyle Cameron, something that also occurred in the second half too bizarrely.
This set the Pools up nicely and ensured that they had a lead to defend and time of the essence for Torquay.
But the Pools failed to predict that in the 95th minute, Lucas Covolan, the Gulls’ goalkeeper would score a header from a corner to send the game to extra time after they had been ahead for so long.
This acted and served as a crushing occurrence for Hartlepool who had to be roused again by their manager, Dave Challinor, formerly of AFC Fylde.
In extra-time, little happened but Jake Andrews of Torquay was stretchered off however both teams tired and perhaps knew that penalties and the associated nerves were coming.
When the penalties begun, all four opening penalties were missed but then the next four were scored.
The shootout went to sudden death, and it was down to Matt Buse to send the Gulls back to League Two however, he missed and joyous celebrations amongst the Hartlepool contingent ensued amidst the backdrop of Torquay heartache and devastation.
The Pools had spent four years in non-league but now a season and possibly more awaits them. They are a club arguably that deserve to be in League Two so they will feel this promotion is justified.
As for Torquay, it is gut-wrenching especially given the fact that they were top of the National League for so long and now also that another season in the non-league doldrums is soon to commence.
Congratulations must go to Hartlepool United.
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