WOOLLEY MOOR UNITED 2
NEWHALL UNITED 2
NEWHALL United returned frustrated at failing to take maximum points from their season-opening game against Woolley Moor United at the I-Want-Petfoods Stadium in Clay Cross.
The welcome and unexpected return of last season's top goalscorer James Ward yielded two goals for the Blues, but even he could not secure victory.
Newhall made a tentative start to the game and with just 11 minutes gone former Matlock Town and Eastwood striker Rockie White put Woolley Moor ahead.
The mercurial marksman proved he is still a class act by making the most of limited space on the edge of the Newhall box, before placing a powerful strike beyond Carl Shilton's reach.
Newhall grew in strength after conceding that goal, and when Jack Willars clipped an effort towards the far post, Ryan Skidmore acrobatically turned it away, while the hosts' keeper was called into action again when Ward met Ashley Riddell's delivery.
The Blues pinned the hosts in their own half, but one counter-attack by the hosts which saw White sliding the ball through to Luke Strong required prompt action from Shilton to race out and avert danger.
However, Newhall notched a deserved 34th-minute equaliser when skipper Richard Draycott found brother Matt with a cross-field ball, and when the latter squared the ball along the edge of the 18-yard box, Ward (pictured) pounced to rifle home a clinical finish.
The Blues had plenty of opportunities to take the lead before the interval.
Yoann Fournier cut inside from the left and sent a shot just wide of Skidmore's top left-hand corner, while Ward turned and fired a snapshot at the keeper after persistent battling from Riddell to regain possession.
Riddell had a chance himself when his header from Ward's free kick skimmed wide, and Willars also pulled a shot wide of the near post after cutting inside.
However, it took brave goalkeeping at the other end to keep things level, when Shilton claimed the ball at Strong's feet as the hosts' winger bore down on goal.
Newhall continued to press after the break, and Ward latched onto a ball from Fournier, cutting inside only to blast over the target from close range.
The Blues striker proved much more composed when his side were awarded a penalty for a pull on Willars, smashing home an unstoppable spot kick to put Newhall into a 52nd-minute lead.
That proved to be short-lived however, and again it was the veteran striker White who proved to be the thorn in Newhall's side.
The aplomb with which he despatched a shot from the 20-yards into the top corner left everyone, not least Shilton, looking on in envy.
Newhall tried to ensure this would be a temporary setback, and United player-manager Brett Hardy produced a goal-line clearance to keep the returning Richard Foster's header out.
Fournier found Willars, who took a touch before sending a long-range strike over the bar, and Riddell skipped past three defenders before finding his route to goal blocked by Liam Wajs.
Ward fired a tame effort at Skidmore, but almost tricked the keeper with his next attempt when he turned and fired a low shot towards the foot of the near post.
Newhall also had a penalty appeal turned down when Ben Cressey challenged Willars as he unleashed a shot.
The hosts' combative performance left Newhall in no doubt that any lapse of concentration would be punished severely.
Foster mopped up a dangerous free kick from Wajs, and Nick McInulty blocked a shot by Liam Stuart after Woolley Moor had made a quick counter-attack.
But it was Newhall who had the final chance to snatch a late winner when Matt Draycott drove a low shot into Skidmore's hands with the last kick of the game.
GOALS: White 11, 55 (Woolley Moor); Ward 34, 52 (Blues)
WOOLLEY MOOR: Skidmore, Winter, Skelding, Hardy, Wajs, Sissons, Lawrie (Stuart 46), Norris, White, Turner (Cressey 76), Strong (Wragg 84).
BLUES: Shilton, R Draycott, M Draycott, McInulty, Tomlin, Foster, Willars, N Smith, Ward, Riddell, Fournier (Coleman 76). Subs not used: Holmes, J Smith.
BLUES STAR MAN: James Ward – his unexpected return, and two goals, boosted the Blues.
REFEREE: M Beard (Tibshelf).