GEORDIE Ryan Donaldson admitted he felt for Gateshead after breaking the Tynesiders’ hearts at Wembley.
Gary Mills’s side were beaten 2-1 by Cambridge United yesterday.
Donaldson - who spent last season playing for Gateshead - scored what turned out to be the winning goal.
The ex-Newcastle United and Hartlepool Utd midfielder scored a stunning free-kick to put Cambridge 2-0 ahead early in the second half.
Donaldson, named man of the match, had also set up Liam Hughes’s first-half strike.
Substitute Jack Lester gave Gateshead hope of a return to the Football League after a 54-year absence with a late goal, but Cambridge held on to win promotion.
Newcastle-born Donaldson admitted he felt for his former employers after collecting his play-off winner’s medal.
“I wouldn’t have picked to have scored against Gateshead in the final,” Donaldson said.
“I had a great time there and I’ve got a lot of friends there. They’re a great set of players.
“It’s hard celebrating in front of their fans.
“It’s hard, but I’m a Cambridge player, and so happy to score the winner for them.”
Donaldson is now backing Mills, appointed last September, to take Gateshead up at the second attempt.
“Who knows what they could achieve with a full season with Gary Mills,” said the 23-year-old, who left Newcastle in 2012 after making six first-team appearances.
“I’ll be a fan next year, and I’ll keep everything crossed that they can do it.”
Donaldson scored two goals in Cambridge’s 4-0 FA Trophy win over Gosport Borough at Wembley in March.
“I’m so proud to be part of this squad,” said Donaldson.
“To win at Wembley twice in three months, score three goals and get two man of the match awards is fantastic.”