James Bolton will return to the squad to face Cambridge United in first leg of the Skrill Conference Premier Play-Off Semi-Finals at The Shay on Wednesday night, having missed out on the weekend’s visit of Kidderminster Harriers.
Illness had prevented the man on loan from Macclesfield Town from appearing on Saturday, but despite his withdrawal from the squad after a bizarre collapse in his own home, thankfully it appears to have been a false alarm: “On Saturday morning I got just got out of bed and randomly passed out so I went to go and have a few tests done but everything seems to be okay.”
Having assessed his well-being ahead of Town’s biggest match of the season thus far, the full-back feels fit and ready for the upcoming clash and has made himself available for selection once more: “I should be okay, I have said that I can play so if all goes to plan I should be alright.”
In Bolton’s absence, both in Saturday’s match and the previous week’s encounter with his parent club Macclesfield, Simon Ainge has deputised at right-back and played himself into contention to keep the spot for himself. This is something Bolton is aware of but is understanding of the situation, and is not expecting to walk straight back into the team without a fight: “I can understand whatever happens really, Aingey is a good player and I’m not expecting to come back in and play, I’m not like that. Aingey has done very well so it’s whatever the gaffer chooses.”
During his time this season at both The Shay and Moss Rose, the 20-year-old has not faced The U’s as he joined The Shaymen on loan after both matches against the Conference runners-up had been contested. However he has seen Richard Money’s side play and is fully aware of the test that awaits them in the forthcoming days: “I remember watching them when I was at Macc but I wasn’t involved. They were a big, strong side that were well organised and worked pretty hard, but I think we can match them.”
United are the favourites for many punters to secure promotion to the Football League, but Bolton concedes that the squad had no real preference as to who they would face over the two legs. Gateshead face Grimsby in the other semi-final and these matches can be as unpredictable as they are entertaining, and every team has a real chance at glory come Sunday 18th May: “Once you’re in the play-offs it is a bit of a lottery. Obviously Cambridge aren’t in good form at the moment but then again they have performed well all over the season so I don’t think it matters which team we face.”
Despite the play-offs often being labelled a ‘lottery’, Bolton is confident that Town can beat anyone in this league over two legs and that his team-mates fear no-one at the moment. However it will be a tough set of fixtures and getting off to a good start is imperative: “Yeah I think if we get a good result at home that is vital so we’re not going into the away leg chasing to try and get goals. I think if we can get a lead it would be good to set us up going into Sunday.”
The prize of negotiating through a tricky play-off encounter is of course a trip to Wembley Stadium to face either Gateshead of Grimsby Town in the Skrill Conference Premier Play-Off Final. Whilst admitting his excitement at the prospect, the defender says he doesn’t want to concentrate on that possibility until it becomes reality: “It’s exciting but I don’t want to think about it until it’s done really. It’s mad considering the kind of players that have played at Wembley so it’s crazy to think about.”
The first leg will be contested at The Shay on Wednesday night in what is sure to be a thrilling spectacle between the two clubs. Kick-off is at 19:45 so be sure to get down to the ground and get behind The Shaymen!
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