YORK City boss Steve Watson has said that he will select the side that is the most ready for the challenge as the club prepare for their first match since March.

York face Altrincham in the Vanarama National League North play-off semi-finals at Bootham Crescent tomorrow, ending their 20-week absence amid the coronavirus pandemic.

After such a long period out of action, getting the players fitness levels to the right standards has been integral.

“The lads’ fitness levels have been very good,” reported Watson, “they came back as a group very fit.

“Some came back and tested better than they did in pre-season.

“It’s a 20-odd man squad so there are going to be people who have found it more difficult than others and have picked up a few injuries along the way, which we’re still dealing with.

“Like the pre-season before, we’ve had two or three injuries which have been a pain, a bit niggly. It’s been trying to find a happy medium between getting them back and not making it worse.

“Without naming names I think you’ll know by the team selection on Saturday who’s fit and who’s not.

“In the middle of the season you pick the team that’s playing the best, the players that are in form, but when you’ve had 20 weeks off, a lot of the thought process is about who me, Micky and Buster (Ian Gallagher, physiotherapist) consider being the most ready, the ones we think can go out and do the job.

“It’s really irrelevant how people were doing 20 weeks ago, it’s all about who looks the most ready and most capable of winning firstly one match, because that’s all we’re looking at right now.”

Given that so few professional clubs are currently in training, and those that are back are preparing for their own play-off games, organising behind-closed-doors friendlies has been a challenge.

“We had a hybrid friendly where we played Halifax at the training ground,” revealed Watson, “not quite for 90 minutes because it was the week of their game but I know there have been other clubs, Harrogate who I’ve spoken to, who haven’t played one.

“Anybody in football will tell you it’s impossible to completely replicate a match in training but you can try and get as close as you can and we’ve tried to do that as much as we can.

“I won’t name the managers I’ve spoken to but I’ve asked a lot of individuals about this and if you pick up two, three, four injuries you have to take the foot off the gas because you physically can’t afford any more.

“At the start of this week we had four or five not training because of injury.”

York’s opponents Altrincham booked their spot in the final four of the play-offs thanks to an entertaining 3-2 home win over Chester last weekend.

Altrincham where 3-0 up after less than an hour thanks to a first-half strike from Josh Hancock and a brace from former York forward Elliott Durrell.

The ten men of Chester forced a frenetic finale, after goals from George Glendon and Matty Hughes, but Alty held on to set up a fourth meeting of the sides this season, with Altrincham winning the last two, both at Bootham Crescent.

“Altrincham have got a lot of good players, a lot of threat,” said Watson.

“The front four in particular of Durrell, (Jordan) Hulme, (Dan) Mooney and Hancock are all very talented and have all got great technique and they caused problems both on set plays and in open play.

“It looked like it had all the makings of a very good second half.

“We know all about them, we’ve played them three times in the season and I’ve always found them a very good side.

“The manager sets them up in a way that makes them very tough to play against.

“Ultimately we’ve got to turn up and win the game.

“We know enough about them. I watched the game closely and took notes on virtually everything but I said to our players it was always going to be about us, are we ready, how we come out of the blocks and we’ve been working hard on how we come out of the blocks.”