While the new season did not result in a victory for Mansfield Town, there was plenty to savour in Saturday’s 2-2 thriller at Newport County.
Stags started well enough before being hit by a sucker punch.
To then go 2-0 down to a penalty kick would be the end of most sides at Rodney Parade.
However, John Dempster - in his very first game as a Football League manager- stayed calm and collected, made some big half-time decisions and was rewarded with an excellent second half showing in which Mansfield really should have won it.
To draw level so quickly, get momentum on your side and win a penalty, all pointed to it being Mansfield’s day.
But the pendulum swung cruelly back the other way as debut-making Nicky Maynard’s penalty was saved.
A red card for midfielder Jacob Mellis then left his side hanging on for a well deserved point.
Having looked back at the sending-off I think the club made the right decision not to appeal to have it rescinded.
It was a long way from being a punch, kick or elbow.
And it’s hard to know whether Mellis could possibly have landed anywhere other than with his knees in Joss Labadie’s back.
But, from the video evidence, it certainly does not look like he is trying to avoid it.
Once again we had the sight of a player rolling around in apparent agony and team mates screaing for a red to try to influence a decision, which they got.
I personally thought a yellow would have sufficed but Stags have to move on and let him get his suspension out of the way.
His absence for the next three games has surely got to open the way for Otis Khan.
Khan was immense when he signed from Yeovil last summer and only lost his place through injury.
But, somehow, once he was fit and available again, he could not force David Flitcroft to give him the run of games he needed to get back in the swing of it.
But Khan has made his point with some impressive pre-season displays and was among the candidates for man of the match at Newport for a superb 45 minute display after coming on at half-time.
His low cross set up Danny Rose for the equaliser and he was also brought down to win the penalty .
Khan’s pace and guile c ould be crucial to breaking down a Morecambe side likely to come to Mansfield with little ambition of anything other than a point on Saturday.
Rose’s goal should also give the striker a big tonic, as should starting at Newport ahead of big summer signing Andy Cook.
Like Khan, Rose endured a miserable campaign last season after shining the year before and needed a lift.
The goal at Newport will give him just that and should also push Cook and Maynard harder knowing Rose is finding his form again.
New boss Dempster is looking forward to his first home game on Saturday. Let’s hope he gets a big crowd, a warm welcome and three points on the board to build on the opening day promise.