COLCHESTER United midfielder Ben Stevenson says last season's play-off heartache is driving him on to achieve promotion this term.

The U's were pipped 3-2 on aggregate in a two-legged semi-final against Exeter City in June, condemning them to another season in League Two.

Stevenson admits it was a gut-wrenching experience but believes the near miss should act as inspiration this time around.

“It was tough to take," said the former Coventry City man.

“We’d worked hard the whole season but didn’t have long to prepare for the play-off games.

“We were disappointed but since we’ve walked back through the door for the new season, it hasn’t affected us.

“We’ve been straight back and we’re looking to go one better, this year.

“You can use it as motivation.

“It was an experience to get there and be so close to Wembley.

"Now it’s something we want to do again and, hopefully, go one step further."

Once again, Colchester will be playing in a near-empty stadium in tomorrow's League Two fixture at Carlisle United.

The current ban on supporters, due to the coronavirus pandemic, means fans are not allowed to attend matches.

Stevenson admits it is a strange experience but says he and his team-mates are trying to not let it affect them.

He said: “It’s obviously been different and it’s not something we’re used to, although we had a little bit of experience of it last season playing in the play-offs.

"We knew what to expect a little bit.

“We’re obviously hoping that the fans can come back as soon as possible but as players, you just have to get on with it really."

Meanwhile, Stevenson has admitted being impressed with young midfield team-mate Noah Chilvers.

The 19-year-old has forced his way into contention this season and scored the U's goal in their 1-1 draw at Barrow on September 26.

“Noah’s been brilliant," said Stevenson.

“He’s not looked out of place at all and done really well.

“He’ll be looking to build on what he’s done so far and I’m sure he’ll be a big player for us.

“It’s good for the club bringing academy players through and he suits the way we want to play.

“He’s embraced it and taken it in his stride."