Scott McManus scored the only goal as FC Halifax Town beat Dover 1-0 on the opening day of the new season.
McManus only scored twice in the whole of last season but helped Town to a dream start here with an excellent goal moments after the restart.
Rather than seeing red at the start of last season, Town were playing in it and got their campaign off to a winning start for the third time in the last five years.
With Dover only 26 miles from France, this is about as close as the Shaymen will get to playing in Europe for a while, barring December’s trek to Torquay.
It took until December to register their first win on the road at Dartford last season, but they will be hoping for plenty more away days like this to come.
As expected, Town matched up against their hosts and started with a 3-5-2 formation, although the inclusion of James Bolton instead of Steve Williams was perhaps a bit of a surprise.
There were only five survivors from the side that started at Cambridge almost exactly a year ago.
There were early reminders of that day with two defensive errors that went unpunished within the space of a minute as Simon Ainge and Dover keeper Mitch Walker both miscued clearances.
Ainge then looped a header inches wide from a Marc Roberts long throw, which given Dover’s comparative lack of height, seemed a potentially fruitful route to goal.
Both teams offered their biggest threat in the air during a fairly scrappy start, although Town got closer to opening the scoring, forcing a fine save from Walker from another Marc Roberts missile.
The dread-locked Ricky Modeste was a live-wire for the hosts, who competed well but lacked composure in the final third.
The beauty of Town’s system was the cover the three centre-backs provided, meaning Dover always one extra man to beat before seeing the whites of Matt Glennon’s eyes.
But it was a similar story at the other end, with Ross Dyer and Scott Boden doing plenty of leg-work without much service getting through.
The mid-way point of the first-half arrived incident-free compared to the action-packed start a year ago when Halifax were down to nine men after 22 minutes.
This time round it was more your usual season-opening fare of both teams sizing each other up as open-play was all hustle-and-bustle.
Danny Schofield, playing his first competitive game for 16 months, produced the one moment of quality in the first-half in its dying moments with a delightful clipped shot that hit the bar.
Neil Aspin certainly couldn’t be accused of being indecisive as he switched to a 4-3-3 for the second-half and made a double change.
Barely two minutes later, McManus unleashed a superb low shot from 20 yards that went in off the post.
Town should have doubled their lead after Boden latched onto a short back-pass but Paul Marshall eventually fired wide after Dover shuffled back.
Barry Cogan then blazed over unmarked but it was one of few chances the Whites created as they made hard-work of their search for an equaliser.
A well-drilled Town defence attacked any high ball with relish, with Ainge and Roberts forming an impenetrable shield as Dover’s attacks became increasingly desperate.
The only blot on the day was Ainge’s late sending-off, it wouldn’t be an opening game without a red card would it, for a second booking.
Dover: Walker, Stone, Raggett, Orlu, Wynter, Modeste (Nanetti 81), Kinnear, Bellamy (Deverdics 75), Sterling, Cogan (Reid 71), Elder. Subs not used: Murphy, Francis.
Shots on target: 3
Shots off target: 4
Halifax: Glennon, M Roberts, Bolton, Ainge, K Roberts (Smith 46), Maynard, Schofield (Peniket 79), Pearson, McManus, Boden, Dyer (Marshall 46). Subs not used: Senior, Williams.
Scorer: McManus (47)
Shots on target: 3
Shots off target: 5
Town man of the match: Marc Roberts