JOHN McGreal admits they will miss the backing of Colchester United’s supporters when they play their League Two play-off semi-final against Exeter City behind closed doors.

But the U’s head coach says they know the club’s fans are all behind them, as they bid to reach the Wembley final and secure promotion back to League One.

Colchester play the first leg of their semi-final against Exeter at the JobServe Community Stadium on Thursday night (kick-off 5.15pm).

Both legs will be played without any fans present and boss McGreal admits his players will need to prepare correctly for the experience.

McGreal said: “It’s a real shame that the fans won’t be there at the games but we’ll still feel their support.

“We’ll definitely miss the South Stand and the drum and the noise that’s generated.

“But it’ll be a different psychology and preparation for the players when they’re playing in an empty stadium.

“We’re going into the unknown and it’s a tough play-off semi-final to go into, with no crowds.

“But it’s the same for both teams and it’s all about the mindset and making sure that you prepare right.

“Don’t get me wrong; it’s a different experience and there are different things that we might have to tweak because of the lack of crowd, people sitting apart on benches and things like that.

“It’s very much a learning curve for us and everyone.”

Colchester were beaten 4-0 at Championship club Millwall in a behind closed doors friendly, on Saturday afternoon.

Ryan Leonard (2), Shaun Hutchinson and Jake Cooper scored the Lions’ goals, at the New Den but it was all about the preparation for McGreal, as they gear up for their big game against Exeter.

“We’re absolutely delighted with the level of fitness the boys have come back with,” added the U’s boss.

“They’ve all followed their individual fitness programmes very well and they’ve done a lot of hard work.

“They’ve shown a great deal of discipline and their fitness is at a very high level.

“It’ll be different test when we go into a game but we’re all gearing up for that now.

“From day one since we’ve come back to training, we’ve been trying to prep as if the play-offs were there.

“We’re gearing up with as much prep as we can now.”