A resolute Colchester United performance got their season off to a solid start on Saturday, as they recorded a fine draw at Preston North End.
A summer overhaul from Preston boss Graham Westley meant that North End were unrecognisable from last season's two games between the two sides, but the U's retained their voodoo sign over their northern opponents.
Whilst Mark Cousins had to pull off two or three great stops, the U's always looked in control at the back and they kept a lively home side at bay through the game.
They also had chances of their own and this match offered much to be positive about after the disappointment of Tuesday night's Capital One Cup defeat.
A high tempo start to the game saw both sides stroking it around nicely in the first ten minutes, but neither keeper was seriously tested in those early stages.
It was not until eleven minutes in that the game came fully to life – first Preston had a shot from Laird blocked and, on the counter attack, Sears’ bursting run ended with a cross that went behind the onrushing Henderson.
Bean went into the book on the 14 minute mark, cutting down the powerful run of Mousinho as he reached the edge of the area.
The free kick was taken by Wroe and his fierce shot from eighteen yards saw Cousins stretch and acrobatically turn the ball over the bar.
The home side were on top as the midway point arrived, not being afraid to get the ball into dangerous areas early on and press on top of the U’s defence.
Rose was having an interesting battle with Monakana down the Preston right, with the winger having plenty of tricks up his sleeve to try and unlock the door.
The first flashpoint of the game involved the Preston wide man. Chasing his own ball into the area, he slid in to get it with Cousins and caught the U’s keeper with an ugly challenge by the time he got to the ball.
It sparked off something of a fracas but, after considering his options for a fair while, the referee issued the wide man a yellow card.
A clever Preston free kick routine almost caught the U’s napping with ten minutes to go, but their defensive line got back in time to see the ball away.
Mousinho followed Bean into the book for a foul on O’Toole on the halfway line and it was set pieces that were giving the U’s most joy in getting forward.
The home fans wanted a set piece of their own – a penalty – as the ball popped up onto Heath in the penalty area, but the referee quickly waved away any appeals.
They did have a sight of goal just before half time as they hit the U’s on the counter, Monakana slipping past Rose and striking in a low shot that Cousins comfortably saved.
Level at the break, the U’s had the first chance of the second half. A free kick for a foul on Morrison was not fully cleared and, with a nifty turn on the edge of the box, Heath’s lashed effort went just over the bar.
At the other end, Monakana twisted and turned before cutting in and striking a shot that forced a superb stop out of Cousins.
After Heath went off with a head injury to be replaced by Eastman, the home side started to turn the screw and it was another good stop by Cousins to tip over a shot from distance by Laird.
There was a sight of goal for the visitors midway through the second half as Sears and O’Toole battled for the ball and the latter struck in a shot with his left foot that never really tested Stuckmann.
The U’s were seeing a bit more of the ball in the second half, though, and Morrison and Sears were enlivened by the fact that their team-mates were able to get up and join them up top.
Morrison went close on 68 minutes, as Bean broke the midfield lines and pinged a cross across goal, which the striker turned narrowly wide on the turn.
Sears then had a glimpse of goal himself as a long ball forward dropped at his feet, but like O’Toole’s earlier effort, it lacked power to test Stuckmann.
At the other end, Amoo decided to take a pop shot from distance that almost paid dividends as it bounced up in front of Cousins, but Eastman cleared behind.
From the corner, O’Toole and Beardsley went crashing to ground as they chased it at the far post, but the referee was motionless despite the vociferous appeals.
The U's held firm in the dying stages and in fact had chances of their own and this match went a long way to addressing the disappointment of the cup exit earlier in the week.