COLCHESTER United chairman Robbie Cowling says this season could become an 'unforgettable one' for the club as they bid for play-off glory.

The U's are preparing to battle it out against Exeter City in the League Two play-off semi-finals, with the first leg taking place at the JobServe Community Stadium next Thursday.

John McGreal's side have already enjoyed plenty of high moments in the current campaign, including beating Spurs and Crystal Palace to take on Manchester United in the Carabao Cup quarter-finals and recording league wins over the likes of Swindon Town and Plymouth Argyle, who have achieved automatic promotion.

Colchester are hoping to add more success to their campaign in the play-offs and chairman Cowling has praised everyone at the club for getting them into this position.

Cowling told the U's website: "To their credit, the players came back in great shape and with a brilliant attitude.

"I know we haven't actually won anything yet but I would like to say well done to everyone at the club for getting us into this position.

"It has certainly been a memorable season so far and with a bit more effort, it could become an unforgettable one."

Cowling admits it was a 'financial gamble' for the club to return to training and undergo regular testing for Covid-19, in readiness for the League Two play-offs.

But the U's supremo says it was a risk that paid off, following confirmation of the play-off against Exeter City earlier this week.

Cowling said: "Shortly after League Two clubs gave the indicative vote to complete the league on a points per game basis, we joined forces with Exeter, Cheltenham and Northampton to push the EFL for our clubs to play our Play-Off matches in June.

"We knew of course that nothing had been finalised, but the chance to get everything wrapped up in June while all the players were still under contract was too good an opportunity to let slip.

"It was a bit of a financial gamble because it has meant taking players off furlough and paying for them all to be tested twice a week for Covid-19.

"Thankfully, the gamble has paid off because the clubs in League Two ratified the decision on Tuesday and we are going to achieve our aim with the final being scheduled for the 29th of June."

Cowling has confirmed that Luke Prosser, Frank Nouble and Ryan Jackson - who were all told that they would not have their contracts renewed this summer - have returned to training ahead of the forthcoming play-offs.

But Brandon Comley, who was also told he would not be offered a new contract this summer, has not rejoined the U's squad.

Cowling said: "As you are aware, I took the early decision to inform those players that are out of contract this summer that the club was not going to be in a position to renew their contracts.

"They were also given the choice whether they wanted to take part in the play-offs.

"In normal times, they would be expected to play despite the uncertainty of their futures as they are under contract.

"However, these are far from normal times and I would not have had the slightest issue if any of them had decided not to take part.

"But these are top pros with a tremendous passion for the game and for our club, and to a man they have all expressed the desire to play and get the job finished.

"Sadly, finances have also limited the number we could actually recall so it's only Luke Prosser, Frank Nouble and Ryan Jackson who have actually returned.

"Another player recalled is Theo Robinson, who has also returned to finish the job even though he knows his future will lie elsewhere.

"I know Southend United are local rivals as far as fans are concerned but we have a very good relationship with them at board level and they have been very supportive regarding Theo's return."

Cowling also had words of praise for the club's sponsors, amid the Covid-19 pandemic.

"Another group that deserve a special mention are the club's sponsors," added Cowling.

"Every single one of them has been supportive of the club during this really difficult time.

"Robert Hayward, the owner of Texo Scaffolding, was kind enough to call me personally and assure me that the club had his support.

"Hopefully we can go some way towards repaying our sponsors with a great showing on Sky next Thursday. There's no other football on that night so we should get a big audience.

"Having said that, I also understand that business is tough and if we haven't fulfilled a sponsorship deal, we will need to put it right.

"I do hate kicking the can down the road but if those conversations could also wait a bit longer the club would appreciate it."