THEY say the first game of a new campaign is a difficult time to judge how a team will fair throughout an entire season.
However, if Scarborough Athletic’s opening game on Saturday is anything to go by, Boro fans will have plenty to cheer about this term.
A spirited comeback – led by inspirational skipper Tony Hackworth – saw the side record a 4-2 victory.
It is a result not many expected, despite a strong pre-season which featured eight wins.
The massed ranks of Seadogs in the crowd of 515, back at Queensgate for the club’s first competitive game for ten weeks, could have been forgiven for a slightly pessimistic view prior to the game.
They were, after all, facing a Parkgate side who finished second last season, losing less games than runaway champions Farsley.
It was also very damp at Queensgate, with rain having been forecast correctly for the whole day.
And Boro were missing five players who may have been in starting positions in Matt Draper, Joe Naylor, Ryan Blott, Gary Hepples and Frank Belt.
Draper of course, was marrying manager Rudy Funk’s daughter Kelly in Nottingham, with Naylor as his best man.
The speeches were timed to begin at 3pm, and it is certain that Funk will have been keeping a close eye on his mobile phone as he began the toasts.
With Darren France and James Earl managing the side from the touchline, and Denny Ingram in the centre of a three-man back-line, Funk’s right-hand men set up the side in a 3-5-2 formation.
Daz Winters and Dave Kemp slotted in alongside Ingram – the only surviving starter of Boro’s last game of last season – with Paddy Miller and Chris Hewitt charged with key roles as wing-backs.
Tony Hackworth took the armband, as he had at Whitby Town over the previous two seasons.
He worked the midfield alongside Scott Phillips and Brent Leister, while the forward line comprised of Ant Lynam and Curtis Bernard.
Parkgate were by far the better side throughout the first half, and even as early as the first minute new Boro keeper Ed Eley needed to drop low to save a shot from dangerman Nathan Forbes-Swindells.
Boro had a penalty claim tuned away when Lynam closed in on goal, the ankle-tap from his former Dinnington team-mate Matthew Griffin not deliberate according to referee Matt McGrath.
The visitors took the lead on 13 minutes, when left-back Tom Jowitt found acres of room to pick out Forbes-Swindells six-yards out who stered the ball past Eley.
Another penalty shout, this time for handball by Jowitt from Bernard’s cross, was also waved away, and Boro were lucky not to go 2-0 down when Winters deflected Ashley Worsfold’s shot wide.
An equaliser did come however, when Bernard’s trickery on the left saw him pass Daniel Cardwell and clip in a cross which Phillips headed in from three yards.
But Boro couldn’t press on, and an identical goal to the opener – Jowitt crossing for Forbes-Swindells – gave Parkgate the lead once again.
Hewitt struck a low shot wide and another handball claim was waved away, but Boro needed to regroup, and did so at half-time.
The second half performance from the home side was noticeably different to the first 45 minutes.
The key was a change in formation which saw Graham Botham replace Leister, and a more orthodox 4-4-2 system in place.
This shored up the space afforded to Parkgate’s attackers in the first half, and in truth, they didn’t get much a look in during the second period.
Boro took their time to equalise, but were by far the stronger team – Phillips, Winters and Lynam all having efforts on goal.
It was skipper Hackworth who pulled Boro back into the game, with two moments of sheer class.
The first, after a combination of passes with Phillips, was a delicate lob to the back post was outfoxed everyone and crept over the line.
And the second, with ten minutes left, a thunderous strike in off the post to give Boro the lead.
Sandwiched between the two goals, Parkgate were reduced to ten men, as substitute Jordan Turner swung out at Dave Kemp after a coming together.
It was left to Boro sub Joel Hartley to seal the three points in injury time, with a right-foot strike from just inside the box.
Keeper Eley had the last word – touching Griffin’s powerfully-struck free-kick onto the bar.
A game that began following a minutes’ applause for late former chairman Richard Adamson, ended with a rapturous standing ovation from the Boro faithful.
And on the second-half evidence, with the squad Boro have in place, it certainly won’t be the last.