Gulls set to fight for play-off glory in bid for promotion
- Credit: Phil Mingo/PPAUK
Torquay United will have to win the play-offs next month to return to the Football League after Sutton United clinched the National League Championship and automatic promotion on Sunday.
A day after the Gulls' 2-2 home draw with Barnet, Sutton sealed the deal with a game to spare with a 3-0 victory over fourth-placed Hartlepool United at Gander Green Lane.
Torquay are guaranteed the runners-up spot, and they will be at home in the first play-off semi-final on Saturday, June 12 (KO midday) against the winners of the fifth v sixth elimination round game.
United led 2-0 midway through the first half against Barnet, and a win would have cranked up the pressure on Sutton and taken the title race to the last day.
But dropped points at home, including recent draws against Bromley (0-0) and Barnet, have cost the Gulls dear, and, after the result at Plainmoor, Sutton knew that one more win would wrap up their first-ever promotion to the EFL.
A goal by full-back Rob Milsom in the 35th minute set them on their way, and second-half efforts by fellow defender Louis John and on-loan Millwall striker Isaac Oloafe wrapped up their 25th win in 41 games.
Sutton can now start ripping up their all-weather pitch and laying a grass one for their League Two bow in August.
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Hartlepool needed a win to overtake Stockport County and force their way into the top-three, which avoids the first round of the play-offs and ensures a home semi-final.
Torquay have one league game left, away to Altrincham next Saturday (Sutton travel to Barnet), before knowing who their play-off opponents will be.
Who will reach the post-season is still wide open - even FC Halifax Town in tenth place have a chance of making the top seven.
The play-off final will be at Ashton Gate, Bristol, on Sunday, June 20.