MILES Welch-Hayes admits the joy of making his long-awaited Colchester United debut was tempered by their painful play-off defeat.

The 23-year-old right-back finally made his U’s bow as an extra-time substitute in their agonising semi-final loss at Exeter City.

Welch-Hayes has had to wait patiently to make his first Colchester appearance following his switch from League Two rivals Macclesfield Town in February, due to the season being suspended because of Covid-19.

And although he was glad to pull on the U’s shirt for the first time, the defender admits any satisfaction that provided was erased by the final outcome at St James Park.

Welch-Hayes said: “I was happy to make my debut but the result killed it a bit.

“It was a big game to come in for, for my debut.

“But I had prepared for it and I was waiting for the moment.

“It was not the best debut for me, because we lost the game.

“But I’ll try and take the positives and focus on next season.

“I came in and did my job – I needed to be prepared and it would have been disrespectful to the team had I not been ready.

“The result was difficult to take.

“We’re all gutted that we didn’t get the job done but everyone gave everything.

“I was gutted for the club – I’m more gutted for the lads and the staff because of how well they’ve all done this season and how hard they’ve worked.

“I feel more for them than I do myself, as I hadn’t contributed anything to us reaching the play-offs having come in when I did.

“We can’t dwell on it though; now we have to recharge the batteries.”

It has certainly been a strange season for Welch-Hayes, whose campaign ironically began at St James Park playing for Macclesfield at Exeter, last August.

He made 28 appearances for the Silkmen before leaving them in January and then later joining Colchester – just before the season was unexpectedly cut short because of the coronavirus pandemic.

“It’s been a weird season, with everything that happened at Macclesfield to having the season interrupted by Covid-19,” added the former Oxford United youngster, who signed a two-and-a-half year deal with the U’s.

“But there’s not much you can do and there’s no point on dwelling on things that are out of your control.

“With the interruption that we had, I don’t think anyone’s experienced that kind of thing before but you just have to take it as it comes.

“I got settled in at Colchester and then had to leave again because of the virus but the boys and the staff welcomed me and helped me to get to know the place.

“I’ve been working hard in training and I’m very happy to have signed for Colchester United.

“I felt Colchester was the right option for me when I signed and I still feel that.

“It’s a good place to be and I just have to play my game and show what I can do.

“I’m very grateful to be here and I’m looking forward to pushing on next season and trying to get promotion again.”