Halstead Town share the spoils with Athletic Newham
Halstead Town had to settle for a point as their 2020/21 bid for promotion from the Thurlow Nunn League First Division South got under way with a 1-1 draw at home to Athletic Newham.
Jordan Pavett's tap-in in the 20th minute had been the least the Humbugs deserved from a strong first half.
But Mark McLean's side were left counting the cost of not building on that advantage with the visitors firing level in the 48th minute through an eye-catching solo effort from Jeff Idemudia, while they also survived a late scare.
It was the same Halstead starting XI that impressively came from behind to beat hosting Ilford 3-1 in their Emirates FA Cup season opener on Wednesday evening.
Chris Harris, who scored twice in that game, was offering himself well early on and in the fifth minute was on the end of the game's first chance. But after getting across his man he could not steer Joe Jones' low cross in at the near post.
The visitors, who were known as Lopes Tavares last season where they had been second in the table before play was halted, had showed plenty of attacking intent in the opening stages but were thwarted by the offside flag on several occasions.
When Richard Kone did break through in the 12th minute and squared in the box for Joel Kappiah, Halstead's new left-back Greg Strong put in a great last-ditch challenge to avert the danger.
It was the hosts who opened the scoring in the 20th minute though when the ball broke 25 yards from goal for Harris who drove forward before seeing his low shot parried out, but Pavett was on hand to knock it into the net.
Looking to press home their advantage, Harris saw a header diverted wide at the near post while Joe Jones' wayward effort took a wicked deflection off Harris and was heading in until it was cleared off the line.
Moments after that 31st minute chance, Harris cleverly sent Jones scampering down the right and his low cross was begging to be turned home by the onrushing Pavett, who was somehow unable to connect with it.
The visitors were still posing a threat though and Youssef Elfadih sent a long-range free kick not far wide of Jack Cherry's left-hand post.
Up the other end, Jack Schelvis hit a bouncing ball well but sent a low shot just wide.
On the stroke of half-time Cherry was forced into his first real action of the half, making a routine diving save to a low curling effort from Idemudia.
At the break Halstead will have felt they could have been a couple more goals ahead, had they taken their chances, while the visitors had seen some good attacking possession but failed to trouble Cherry.
There was a good early chance for the Humbugs at the start of the second half when a throughball slipped Pavett in but Willkinson flew off his line and made the save.
In the 48th minute the home side were hit with a sucker punch though after some fine individual skill from Idemudia. The number seven had his back to goal on the edge of the area but turned smartly before firing low and hard into the bottom left-hand corner, giving Cherry little chance.
The east London side suddenly had their tails up and in the 53rd minute a cross-cum-shot from the lively Simon Bamidele bounced back off the right-hand upright.
Just after the hour mark Jones' free kick was kept out by an arching tip-over save from Wilkinson.
In the 68th minute the visitors forced the ball into the net, but the offside flag had already gone up.
Chances continued to be traded with Halstead's Harris heading over a corner at the far post while Newham's Bamidele sent a curling shot wide.
In the 71st minute Harris engineering some space on the right side of the penalty area and forced Wilkinson to push his shot out for a corner, which was again headed over.
A promising Newham attack saw Halstead get away with some haphazard defending before the tricky Anderson Baro fired a half volley over at the near post.
After a significant delay for Halstead's Matt Caley to receive treatment, Newham's Khalifa Jabble fired a free kick well over the crossbar as the game entered the final 10 minutes still on a knife-edge.
The visitors began to ramp up the pressure and three minutes from time Caley and Nick Miller both made important blocks to send shots from Idemudia over the bar.
In the final minute it looked like an equaliser was imminent when the offside flag stayed down after a ball over the top put Babs Sonupe in the clear. But the number 11 seemed to suffer from too much time to think and, after just managing to take the ball out of Cherry's reach, saw his shot cleared off the line by the covering Connel Dunlop.
The game had entered a fifth minute of stoppage-time when Pavett's header from a free kick was cleared within a crowded box but there was to be no late drama as the spoils were shared at the end of a hard-fought contest.
Halstead: Cherry. Whitehead, Strong, Caley, Dunlop, Miller, Amos (Dallinger 49'), Schelvis, Harris, Pavett, Jones (Baker 76'). Unused subs: Gardiner, Dunn, McPherson.
Free Press Man of the Match: Chris Harris - was a constant thorn in the visitors' side and played a pivotal role in the goal.
* See Thursday's Suffolk Free Press for reaction from manager Mark McLean as well as a preview to the weekend's big FA Cup tie at Leiston.