Matty Pearson is in action for FC Halifax Town this evening in the first leg of the Skrill Conference play-offs with the prize of a place in the top ranks at stake.
Should the Shaymen see off the challenge of Cambridge United after Sunday’s away leg, they will meet Grimsby Town or Gateshead for a place among the game’s elite 92 clubs.
It will be a swift return to the professional ranks for Pearson, 20, who was released by Rochdale last summer.
Pearson told the Halifax website: “The play-offs are a huge achievement for any team, let alone a part-time football club. It’s been an unbelievable season. It’s massive for everyone.
“It’s a chance to finally get in the League and for the club and for the players it’s a great achievement.
“I just hope it goes how we want it to go and we can hopefully get to go to Wembley. Hopefully we can get the results and in two months’ time we can be getting ready for pre-season in League Two.
“As a team we don’t fear anyone really, whoever we get, we’ll give it our best shot. I’m just happy to be there.”
The six-foot three defender turned midfielder moved to West Yorkshire on loan last March and helped Town to victory in the Conference North play-offs.
Now, a season later, they are on the brink of repeating the feat to move back to the level previously held by their predecessors.
Town finished the season in fifth place after a remarkable run of form during March into April when they were unbeaten in 10 matches, winning nine and drawing one, keeping eight clean sheets.
By contrast Cambridge, who started the season at a gallop with a 16-match unbeaten run, fell away dramatically to finish well adrift of champions Luton Town and lost their last four matches of the campaign.
But in meetings between the two, United hold the upper hand, having won the season opener 5-1 and then drawn at The Shay in January. Worryingly for Pearson, he was booked in both games.
But he is undaunted by the challenge ahead of the part-time team and said: “It’s a great achievement for all the lads. It shows, especially with our home performances, that we are a really good team and a tough place to come.
“I don’t think anyone could’ve predicted this finish to be honest.
“We realised we belonged in this league and that helped when we beat Grimsby and Wrexham early on, which boosted our confidence and those sorts of games make you play better and give you a belief that you can do well.”
The Keighley-born player joined Blackburn Rovers as a 10-year-old after impressing with Long Lee Juniors and progressed through their junior ranks to sign as a pro in 2011.
He played for Conference side Lincoln City on loan before joining Rochdale on his release from the Ewood Park club, playing 13 times for the Spotland side before his switch to Halifax on loan last March. He signed a two-year contract at The Shay in June when he was released by the Lancastrians.
International honours have also come the way of Pearson. The England u18 international was called up into the England C squad this season after impressing selectors during a season that has seen him play in 43 of Town’s 46 league matches, scoring twice.
Read the full interview on the AFC Halifax Town website, here.