Pontefract Collieries had to settle for a point from their opening game in Division One of the newly named Toolstation NCE League after being unable to find the net away to Shirebrook Town.
After some promising pre-season displays Colls found it tougher going when the big kick-off arrived and rarely threatened to find the net.
The fixture list has not been kind to Ponte, dealing up numerous tough matches straight off against teams who will all have realistic hopes of promotion. The opening day served up a game against a revamped Shirebrook team who look to be as strong as ever.
With the home team celebrating the opening of a new stand on Sir Bobby Robson day, there was a real sense of occasion at Langwith Road, adding to the normal sense of anticipation to accompany the season commencement.
Despite the lack of goals, the match did not lack intensity or incident, with two highly committed and talented sides neutralising each other.
The first chance fell to Aaron Moxam, who cut inside from the right before curling a shot wide.
With Pontefract struggling to create openings, their best opportunities in the opening period all came from corners, with Andy Catton’s inswingers causing concern. One such corner should have led to the opener, but the referee failed to spot the hand of a Shirebrook defender retrieving the ball from over the line following Rob Oldham’s header.
For the hosts, right-back Ben Cobley curled a 30-yard free-kick inches wide, before Moxam raced clear of Johnny Forsyth, but found his attempt to loft Craig Parry being pulled out of the air by the Ponte keeper.
With the hosts dominant, Ponte were resolute in defence, but the combination of the depth of their rearguard action and a lack of controlled possession meant that they rarely threatened. Increasingly, strike duo Liam Radford and Steve Lyon found themselves isolated, chasing long clearances with little support from a midfield that seemed unwilling to abandon their defensive duties.
However, during their one quality first-half move, the visitors came close to scoring when Radford lifted a fine cross onto the head of Lyon, who found himself stretching and unable to keep his header below the crossbar.
As the first half drew to a close, Craig Getliff came close for the hosts, striking a bouncing ball from 25 yards out, which rebounded off the inside of Parry’s far post.
With the slope against them after the interval, Ponte seemed to withdraw further into their shell. However, they could have opened the scoring when Catton executed a superb volley on the turn, only to see Joe McCormack parry the ball away to safety.
It was a rare opportunity for Catton, who will rarely have endured a 90 minutes with so little service, despite the sterling efforts that the winger put into aiding his team’s rearguard action.
As the hosts seized the momentum, Moxam struck a fierce shot against the near post with Parry beaten, before Getliff raced forward to get himself on the end of a fine move, before firing his left-foot shot wide of the near upright with the goal beckoning.
Cobley again showed his expertise with the dead-ball, curling a 28 yard free-kick over the wall only to see the excellent Parry cover a lot of ground before launching himself low to his left to turn the ball around the post for a corner.
Despite the paucity of their attacking performance, Colls will consider this an excellent result to get their campaign under way. Shirebrook is always one of the tougher grounds in the NCE from which to plunder points and the new-look Notts team look set for a strong campaign.
Pontefract Collieries failed to find the net again on Tuesday night when they followed up their opening draw with a narrow 1-0 league defeat away to Worsbrough Bridge Athletic.
On a ground where Colls have traditionally struggled they gave another solid display, but fell to a 61st minute goal by Adam Podmore.
Ponte are next in action in the extra preliminary round of the FA Cup on Saturday when away to Ashington in the north east (3pm).