Peterborough United 0 Halifax Town 2
PERHAPS IT was the boiler-house temperatures that quickly instilled feelings of discomfort - or it could have been the World Cup, the shortened close season and the realisation that there has been no real break from the game.
Instead of first-day joy and optimism, we found at London Road a distinct mix of weariness and an unease, a mood of rebellion among the locals that was brought on by early evidence that this was still the Peterborough of the second half of last season and not the cohesive unit that appeared certainties for promotion at the midway point.
As for Halifax Town - the Football League's "newcomers", having reclaimed the place they lost five years ago, they are scarcely an example of harmony and togetherness themselves.
Since claiming their Conference title they have witnessed controversial changes at board and managerial level and already a row has developed between the new player-manager Kieran O'Regan, who was only appointed last week, and Peter Butler, the former West Ham midfielder signed during the summer.
At the end of the afternoon the unavoidable conclusion was that it is easier to put aside internal division than it is to placate unhappy supporters.
When Peterborough failed to embellish their early dominance with the goals that should have arrived for Jimmy Quinn twice inside the first 20 minutes, the home fans discarded any hopeful expectation and tolerance they had nursed through the summer. Before the first half-time of the season, the calls were ringing out for Barry Fry to resign.
Fry's side - strangely for this most free-spending of managers a team virtually unchanged from that which finished the previous campaign - were lustily booed off at the finish, which does not augur well for the long weeks to come.
"The fans should not be so impatient already," said the manager. "If they are true Peterborough supporters, they should get behind the players and give them a chance."
Halifax were good value for their win. Of course, it's far too early to say that they can follow where Macclesfield and Wycombe so impressively led (the last two Conference champions to be promoted to the League both managed to race right through the bottom tier into the Second Division) but this will do for starters.
It is also hard to make assumptions based on a team missing their player- manager through suspension, their inspiration-in-chief Jamie Paterson through injury and one forced to field three midfield players all new to the club and all holding one-month contracts.
"All things considered it has been an interesting first week in charge, but I've told the players to distance themselves from what is going on behind the scenes, and this was a great response," said O'Regan. Butler was injured on Saturday, but in any case is said to be refusing to play because he expected to be given coaching duties with the first team.
Yet, for all their problems, they showed that they possess a striking partnership of skill and understanding.
First Dave Hanson - who thought his career was over due to a back problem during his first season as a professional with Manchester United - capitalised on Mick Bodley's slip to give the visitors the lead.
Then Geoff Horsfield, whose 34 goals last season did nothing to quieten talk among some of the club's supporters that the move up to the professional game was a step too far, added a second late on.
One more perplexing note: why are Halifax, home of the largest building society, sponsored by the Nationwide?
Goals: Hanson (48) 0-1; Horsfield (77) 0-2.
Peterborough United (4-4-2): Tyler; Scott, Bodley, Edwards, McMenamin; Farrell (Gill, h-t), Payne (Hooper, 67), Castle, Houghton; Carruthers (Grazioli, 75), Quinn.
Halifax Town: (5-3-2): Martin; Thackeray, Brown, Stoneman, Hulme, Bradshaw; Duerden, Lucas, Murphy; Hanson, Horsfield. Substitutes not used Place, Carter, Stansfield.
Referee: E Lomas (Manchester).
Man of the match: Hanson.
Attendance: 5,746Reuse content