For the testing trip to title favourites Luton Town, Manager Garry Haylock was deprived of the services of Ahmed Deen who has been called up to play in Egypt for Sierra Leone in the Africa Cup of Nations qualifiers, his absence giving a first start to former Watford man Andy Yiadom. Two further changes saw Lee Harrison return in goal while newly loaned Michael Malcolm took his place up front with Josh Lennie and Elliott Buchanan dropping to the bench.
The home side started well with much possession but unlike last season the United defence was resolute and in fact the first close shave actually came at the other end on 12 minutes. Adam Green's cross from the left saw Yiadom and a defender jump for the ball together, the loose ball falling to Malcolm who struck a volley that brought a sharp save from Hatters keeper Mark Tyler as it was heading for the top corner.
Home defender Zdenek Kroca was given far too much time to advance before firing wide from 25 yards and then at the other end Malcolm headed a long Tom Cadmore pass vertically with Bradley Pritchard volleying side as the ball dropped.
The Hatters now started to pressure the United goal. George Pilkington looped a header goalwards from an Andy Drury corner but Harrison was on hand to tip it over, the resultant corner found it's way back from the left side, Kroca knocked it down to Matthew Barnes-Homer but his shot on the turn was just wide of the target.
Adam Bygrave then gave his keeper's heart a little flutter when he forced him to race from goal to beat Danny Crow to a back-header and then just a minute later Barnes-Homer had another chance but this time Harrison dealt with it comfortably.
Harrison had to be at his best eight minutes from
the break when Barnes-Homer's cross was glanced towards the top corner by Crow, the United stopper superbly tipping the ball around his post. It was not long before Harrison was again needed, Barnes-Homer picked out Drury and his 20 yard shot was touched over by the United custodian, sadly this was his last action as a recurrence of his injury saw him replaced by Josh Lennie.
Much as the first half it was the home goal that first came under attack. Jamie Hand played the ball inside to James Mulley who worked himself some space and tried to curl the ball into the top corner, Tyler tipping it over at a stretch. The resultant corner was nodded on by Adam Bygrave to Yiadom who saw his sharp volley well held by Tyler.
Five minutes later Tyler was beaten. Green's cross from the left was partially cleared by Tyler but as the ball fell to Pritchard 20 yards from goal he calmly took a touch and lofted a perfectly lobbed shot back over Tyler into the Hatters net.
The lead was to last just six minutes sadly as a Keith Keane free-kick was floated to the far post and DRury arrived to power a header past the unprotected Lennie.
Less than ten minutes later it was the woodwork that kept the scores level as Kroca heads a Drury corner against the United crossbar and as Pilkington headed the ball back into the mix a game of pinball ensued before the danger was finally seen off.
Pritchard then had an effort that hit the net ruled out quite correctly for offside, this being quickly followed by a Holmes effort from 25 yards that forced another tip over from Tyler.
The home side then started to throw everything at the United defence. Another Drury free-kick picks out a team-mate, this time Claude Gnakpa who heads wide when well placed. Another spell of pinball in the United area follows quickly and it seems everytime the ball is blocked 6,000 Hatters yell "handball", thankfully referee Barratt is not influenced and the danger goes away.
Five minutes of stoppage time had just commenced when United were awarded a free-kick 20 yards from goal, Green fires past the wall and forces a save from Tyler, the loose ball being toes away from Malcolm by an excellent tackle from Pilkington. It was United who were now creating chances to win the game, Elliott Buchanan set up Pritchard but this time he fired over and seconds later Mulley burst into the box on the left only to be denied by Tyler's legs.
Almost the last action of the game saw Mulley break away on the right only to be scythed down by Drury who having already been cautioned for throwing a tantrum saw yellow again and was sent from the field leaving United to come away with a well deserved point from a ground where we shipped eight last season.
Report by Kevin Watts.
Photos by Ray Peploe.
United Man of the Match: The whole lot of 'em.