Paul Gallagher admits he was left ‘sweating’ over his availability for Wembley after suffering a foot injury in Preston North End’s semi-final victory over Chesterfield.
The midfielder feared he had broken his left foot in the Deepdale clash with the Spireites but thankfully an X-ray showed up only bone bruising.
After undergoing treatment last week, Gallagher has been able to join in the last two training sessions and is on course to be fit for the League One play-off final against Swindon Town.
Gallagher told the Evening Post: “I got the injury when I was tracking back in the first half against Chesterfield.
“I managed to get in an interception in the box and their lad just stamped right down on my foot.
“I felt something go in my foot straight away, it didn’t feel right at all.
“I couldn’t complete the clearance which I had gone in for – luckily Neil Kilkenny was back with me and managed to get the ball clear.
“Adrenaline got me through the rest of the first half and at half-time it was really sore.
“I didn’t want to come off so I gave it a go for the first few minutes of the second half.
“But it was just too painful and the right thing to do was get someone else on to the pitch who was fresh and could help us get to where we wanted to be.
“I’ve got to admit that going for the X-ray was a bit scary because I was fearing what they might find.
“I had a bit of a sweat on and really I didn’t want to go.
“In the end it was fine, it was some bone bruising on the outside of the foot, which is common in football.
“Luckily, nothing was broken which was the important thing.
“These last few days have been about resting my foot and bringing the bruising out. It is tender because there is not much else down there, just the bones in your foot.
“I’ve trained the last two sessions and everything has seemed okay.
“I’ve had knocks on my toes this season and got through – playing with injuries is part and parcel of it.
“I don’t think I have got through a season when I’ve been 100% fully fit since I was about seven-years-old!
“All players are the same – everyone will be carrying a knock of some sort at this stage of the season.”
Providing that Gallagher suffers no ill effects over the coming days, he will play at Wembley for the first time in his career.
Previous attempts to reach play-off finals with Preston and parent club Leicester ended at the semi-final stage.
Getting to the final, says Gallagher, has been a good test of PNE’s character.
“The difference between what we felt after the Colchester game and then after Chesterfield, was incredible,” said Gallagher.
“Colchester was just heartbreaking – you couldn’t even think what was happening next because everyone was so low.
“ We showed a very strong character after that to bounce back and beat Chesterfield in the semi-final.
“But what we have done so far is only half a job because we now need to go down to Wembley and play well there.
“What we are aiming to finish is not only the job we started in the play-offs, but the one we aimed to do when we reported back for pre-season training in July.
“I’m determined to enjoy the final – it might be my only chance of playing at Wembley.
“I’m 30 now so I have to look at it as both the first and last chance.”