Colne kick-off their North West Counties League Premier Division campaign at Winsford United tomorrow (kick-off 3 p.m.) looking to start on the right foot.
Nigel Coates’ Reds finished fifth last season, levelon points with fourth place Padiham, and, in the absence of free-scoring champions New Mills, the league looks very open.
New Mills have been promoted to the Northern Premier League Division One South, and now the title-chase promises to be a competitive battle.
Colne follow up their opening game with a trip to Squires Gate on Tuesday, kick-off 7-45 p.m.
They go into the season on the back of Tuesday’s 1-1 draw at home to Lancaster City.
A great performance by Jamie Scott earned the Reds a deserved draw at the XLCR Stadium.
The Colne keeper made a series of top class saves in the closing stages to deny the visitors’ rampant forwards a winning goal.
Ironically it was Colne who had started the game looking the stronger side, and Andy Tinker forced a one-handed save from the Lancaster keeper after only two minutes. Seven minutes later, it was Tinker who gave the Reds the lead, this time beating the keeper with a low shot from just inside the penalty area.
Colne might have gone further ahead after 13 minutes when Liam Goggin’s low cross was met on the half volley by Michael Cruz, but the City keeper pulled off a good save to block his well-struck shot.
On the half hour, Ted Cockett made a run into the visitors’ penalty area and saw his first shot blocked by the keeper, and his follow-up appeared to be stopped by a defender’s hand, but Colne’s penalty appeals were waved away by the referee.
Two minutes before half-time, Tinker looked hard done by when he was clearly held back in the City penalty area but, when the referee played the advantage rule, Cockett pulled his shot across the face of goal.
Although Colne started brightly after the interval, the visitors drew level after 55 minutes when Billy McKenna ran onto a through ball and slotted home in a one-on-one with the keeper.
Colne found chances hard to come by in the second half with Mark Threlfall seeing two efforts deflected for corners and Matt Tindall shooting across the goal after a good run into the penalty area.
But Lancaster grew stronger as the half wore on and put the home defence under pressure where Steve Pickup, Billy Priestley and Danny Gleave made outstanding contributions.
But, in the closing minutes, it was Scott who saved the day.
He stopped McKenna’s point blank shot after 84 minutes when the striker looked a certain scorer and, from the resulting corner, he made an acrobatic one-handed save to turn the same player’s header around the post.
And in the last minute, Scott blocked a powerful 20 yard free kick and recovered in time to clear the loose ball off the toes of the opposition forwards.
On Saturday, Colne cruised to a convincing 4-1 win in their friendly against Chadderton at the XLCR Stadium.
The Reds started slowly and conceded an early goal when Chris Pauley gave the visitors the lead after eight minutes with a 25 -yard diagonal shot that went in off the underside of the crossbar.
Colne could find little room in the final third of the field as the visitors defended well for the first half hour, but Billy Priestley almost made the breakthrough when his close range header was blocked by the Chadderton keeper on the goal-line after 30 minutes.
Six minutes later as Colne again pushed forward, Joe Garvin and Martin Broderick stretched the Chadderton defence with good crosses before Mark Threlfall headed home the equaliser.
And just before half-time, the Reds went in front when Liam Goggin was brought down on the right wing and Garvin’s swerving free kick was nodded home at the far post with a glancing header by Priestley .
The second half was only two minutes old when Colne went further ahead with their third goal which Andy Tinker fired home after Ben Bridson and Danny Boyle had created the opening.
Michael Cruz struck the visitors’ crossbar with a 20-yard shot 10 minutes later, and on the hour Bright Maduka was denied his first goal for Colne when his header came back off the post.
Although Colne had the upper hand, Chadderton competed well and managed to test home keeper Jamie Scott with some long shots on several occasions.
But the Reds rounded off the afternoon with a fourth goal in the closing stages when Bridson found the net with a perfectly judged lob in a one-on-one with the Chadderton keeper.