COLCHESTER United head coach John McGreal wants his players to rise to the occasion when they host automatic promotion-chasing MK Dons in front of a bumper crowd this afternoon.

The U's are ready for a crucial game at the JobServe Community Stadium, as they aim to keep their League Two play-off hopes alive with victory in their final home match of the league season.

Colchester lie two points off the top-seven with two games remaining, with three teams level with them on 64 points ahead of the U's game with the fourth-placed Dons.

McGreal said: “I’ve been fortunate enough to be involved in quite a lot of stuff at this time of the season during my time in football and these are the games you look forward to and crave as a player, because you don’t know what it might bring.

“What it does bring is opportunity.

“There are a lot of teams playing for something on Saturday and we’re one of them, which is fantastic.

“We’ve taken four points out of our last two games and it’s kept us in and around it.

“It’s up to us to try and handle those nerves and put ourselves into a positive position and deliver on the big-game stage.

“These players are playing with no fear – they’ve made mistakes but it’s up to me and Steve (Ball) to get them back on their feet.

“This is where the top players come to the forefront when you have a big stage like this."

Colchester go into the match on the back of a productive Easter, where they claimed four points from a possible six.

“We’ve been in and around it all season," added McGreal.

“It’s exciting times and it’s been like that all season.

“We’ve got a last little push with the two games now coming towards the end of the season.

“It’s a fantastic game to have and it’s our last home league game of the season but we’re hoping we’ll get into the play-offs.

“We’re asking the fans to turn up and make a huge noise like they did against Grimsby.

“We bumped into quite a few of them in the service station coming home after the Yeovil game and they were as high as a kite, with the way that the results went and knowing that we have MK Dons coming at home.

“They’re a big club in our league - I’m sure they’ll bring a number of fans and we’re hoping we’ll do the same to make it a great atmosphere.

“We’ve got something to play for and so have they so it should be conducive to a good game of football.

“We have to be excited about the weekend and it’s what we all crave.

“We’re still in and around the play-offs with two games to go and we’ve been up there since day one right the way through the nine or ten months."

Colchester's fans have been doing their bit to make it a day to remember, with the BlueWhiteArmy (BWA) group raising money to create a colourful welcome for the players.

“I think it’s fantastic and that’s the relationship that we’ve been trying to build since I’ve been here," said McGreal.

“Our fans are trying to create that big stage for our players and it’s up to our players to take that mantle and move forward with it.

“We all want to improve and we want to continue that."

Colchester have already beaten MK Dons once this season, with Luke Prosser scoring their winner in a 1-0 win at Stadium MK, last December.

However, boss McGreal says that result will have no bearing on today's game.

He said: “December is a long time ago – a lot has happened for both clubs since then including things like injuries and formation changes.

“Even one of our own Alex Gilbey is out for the season and it will be two different teams out there.

“They will be two different teams who want to win a game of football."

McGreal will come up against his pal Paul Tisdale today.

He has formed a good friendship with the MK Dons boss over the last three years, since his appointment as Colchester manager.

McGreal added: “Paul has been brilliant to me and Steve over the three years that we’ve been involved.

“We’ve always rung Paul up and asked one or two questions and he’s always been on the other end of the phone and given his answers and input and thought process.

“He’s been at this level for over ten years with Exeter and now MK Dons and has been successful.

“Paul will have his ideas of where he wants to go and we definitely do too.

“We show tons of respect to the opposition and will do the analysis but then it’s about what we do."