Colchester United v Exeter City – JobServe Community Stadium – Sky Bet League Two play-off (first-leg) Thursday 5:15pm
Colchester United v Exeter City – Preview;
It was a far cry from John McGreal’s normal tranquil pre-match press conference.
Supping on a steaming cuppa while quizzing the U’s boss over the task in hand was replaced by social distancing and undoubtedly a nose over the horizon into the unknown.
Of course, despite the global uncertainty and national panic, Colchester United have a great chance to conclude arguably the most bizarre campaign in their history with a Wembley date and possible promotion. Nevertheless, the situation wasn’t lost upon the 48-year-old Scouser, who is fully aware of how different and unpredictable Thursday’s League Two play-off first-leg clash with Exeter City will be.
“It’s going to be – I’ve never been in this position,” McGreal confessed.
“I’ve been involved in the game for quite a number of years. Even pre-season hasn’t been to this extent as such with your amber zones, red zones, green zones.
“Looking here at the media, all this social distancing, it’s going to be totally different. When it comes to the crunch, there’s going to be a lack of atmosphere, but it is still a play-off game.”
But with the North Essex outfit in the mix, McGreal insisted he and his team had done everything required in preparation for the tie.
“It is still an opportunity to get promoted. That is what we are trying to put into the players, trying to use the psych on that respect and to go and play our way of football. That is what we are trying to do.
“Yes, we’ve had a lot of time off, but as I say, they haven’t been on the beach, they haven’t been relaxing as such. They have had programs in place and have been adhering to the programs.”
Colchester warmed up with a friendly match at Millwall last weekend and McGreal confirmed it wasn’t without minor issues.
“We’d had in-house games prior to that – we’d had a couple of little niggles on the way to the game as well so we had to be really mindful of the game over the weekend (at Millwall).
“We were always trying to get that balance, but all in all, it was a really good test for us.”
The U’s chief now has the perfect problem of a fully fit group and hoped that their preparation would help nudge them over the line despite missing their vital twelfth man in the stands.
“It’s always tough, especially when you’ve got a fully fit squad. It is always tough because boys have been performing to a decent level prior to the pandemic. But now you are looking at survival of the fittest as such as what we have got.
“They have adhered to the programs, they’ve done really well, they look fit and enthusiastic as well.
“Even though there isn’t going to be an atmosphere here, we have to try to generate our own and the vibe has been excellent.”