THE Gulls kicked-off the new League 2 season with a goalless draw at Fleetwood Town and it was an outcome both sides will probably mark down as ‘satisfactory’.
Fleetwood, playing their first ever game in the Football League, rode the wave of a party atmosphere on the Lancashire coast, dominating possession for long periods but without doing enough to justify all three points.
Ian Morris missed a late chance for United and Rene Howe had a goal disallowed, but it ended up a welcome point for the boys in Yellow.
The stand-out name in a powerful team selection for Fleetwood boss was giant striker Jon Parkin, affectionately known as the Beast for his physical prowess, and more evidence of the financial freedom enjoyed by the Cod Army.
United boss Martin Ling freshened up his wide areas from the disappointing 4-0 loss to Leicester in the Capital One Cup. Ian Morris dropped back to the midfield three and Ryan Jarvis was left on the bench with Craig Easton.
Billy Bodin returned from international duty to take the right-wing slot and Thomas Cruise started on the opposite flank. Lloyd Macklin was fit enough for bench-duty, bumping young Niall Thompson out of the squad.
A shaky start to life in the Football League from the home defence prompted a mistake from the experienced Youl Mawene, but former Crawley full-back Dean Howell was on hand to clear up the mess with Rene Howe lurking.
Joe Oastler then took an industrial approach to dealing with the Parkin threat, catching the big forward with an accidental boot that forced him off the field for treatment.
Fleetwood’s first chance fell to Jamie McGuire but he was denied by a fine save from Michael Poke, and Howe then had Scott Davies checking his angles at the other end with a fierce drive after being fed by Morris.
The Cod Army then settled into the first half and kept the ball nicely, but without hurting the Gulls. In fact, the only real pain was that suffered by Mawene, who had his paternal prospects skewed by a whack in the unmentionables.
Bodin forced another save from Davies on the half-hour and then United enjoyed a reprieve from referee Chris Sarginson, who waved away vociferous claims for a penalty after a robust challenge from Oastler on Andy Mangan.
An interesting first period concluded with a bizarre stoppage, as an inexplicably large divot appeared on the pitch, forcing the Fleetwood ground staff into some serious repair work.
A bright start to the second period from the home side was expertly quelled by some sound Yellow defending, and Brian Saah then went up the other end for a set-piece, firing just wide on 54 minutes.
Fleetwood won a succession of corners but the only time Poke was really called into action came after a defelcted shot from Parkin, and United’s new custodian comfortably tipped over his own crossbar.
Both sides made changes and Macklin added some spice to the Gulls from the wing. Howe had a goal ruled out for a push in the box and then the big chance of the day fell to Morris, but he failed to cap a decent personal performance, dragging his shot wide on 85 minutes.
In the end, a satisfactory point for United at a difficult ground, and the long trip home to prepare for successive home games against Cheltenham on Tuesday and then Rochdale visit Plainmoor on Saturday.
Fleetwood (4-3-3): 1 Scott Davies; 2 Shaun Beesley, 5 Steve McNulty, 28 Youl Mawene, 3 Dean Howell; 11 Barry Nicholson, 18 Jamie McGuire, 20 Damien Johnson; 14 Andy Mangan, 9 Jon Parkin (Junior Brown 58), 26 David Ball (Gillespie 80). Substitutes (not used): 10 Lee Fowler, 13 Alan Goodall, 15 Conor McLaughlin, 16 Chris Maxwell, 27 Alex Marrow.
United (4-3-3): 1 Michael Poke; 2 Joe Oastler, 5 Brian Saah, 4 Aaron Downes, 3 Kevin Nicholson; 7 Lee Mansell, 6 Damon Lathrope, 11 Ian Morris; 15 Billy Bodin, 9 Rene Howe, 21 Thomas Cruise (14 Lloyd Macklin 71). Substitutes (not used): 8 Ryan Jarvis, 13 Martin Rice (GK), 18 Craig Easton, 20 Nathan Craig, 23 Ashley Yeoman, 30 Kirtys MacKenzie.
Referee: Chris Sarginson