The opening day couldn’t have gone much better for Spalding United.
After the disappointment of missing out on promotion in the play-off final, the new season started in style.
Maximum points came courtesy of goals from strike pair Jenk Acar and Gary King.
Michael Duggan’s second-half penalty save protected the advantage and a rock-solid defensive display secured the clean sheet.
Although the Premier League’s big spenders seem to have forgotten how to keep the ball out of their own net, Spalding are sticking to the basics.
Neal Spafford and Ellis Humble formed a formidable no-nonsense partnership at the heart of the defence.
Full-backs Paul Walker and Adam Jackson also had key roles – maintaining the form which was so impressive last season.
As usual, Matt Varley and Nathan Whitehead battled for every ball in midfield.
Lee Beeson and Jamie McGhee provided a threat out wide, showing support for Acar and King up front.
There were promising signs of clever link-up play between the strikers and, as Acar was forced off during the break, Jonny Lockie’s pace provided more problems for Stocksbridge Park Steels.
The South Yorkshire club won both league meetings last season but Lockie fired the extra-time decider in the play-off semi-final.
The teenager came off the bench again after Acar took a blow to the head in first-half stoppage-time.
Acar rolled a shot wide of the far post following King’s flick three minutes before the opening goal.
Park Steels skipper Liam McFadyen was penalised for handball as King tried to open up the home defence.
Beeson’s free-kick hit the wall but Stocksbridge could not clear the danger and Acar pounced from eight yards to slot past David Reay.
When he signed a deal with the Tulips this summer, Acar asked for a central role. If he continues to convert those chances, it seems unlikely that he will be moved to the wing.
The home fans celebrated when they thought Duggan had been beaten – but Brodie Litchfield’s long-range drive actually went into the side netting.
Litchfield clipped the top of the bar early on but Joe Lumsden had a golden chance to level seven minutes into the second half.
Whitehead’s high boot on Richard Stirrup conceded a penalty and Duggan dived to his right, pushing away the spot-kick.
Instead of being all-square, the lead was doubled when Lockie chased the ball and a poor clearance fell to King who smashed beyond Reay from 20 yards.
King came close again with a deflected effort – but it was ‘job done’ for Spalding.
STOCKSBRIDGE PARK STEELS
4-4-2: D Reay; Charlesworth, McFadyen, M Reay (sub Poulton 17 mins), Grayson; Rhodes (sub Osgathorpe 70 mins), Stirrup, Wiles, Litchfield (sub Carroll 75 mins); Ruthven, Lumsden. Subs not used: Hinchliffe, Thompson.
4-4-2: Duggan 8; Walker 8, Spafford 8, Humble 8, Jackson 8; Beeson 7 (sub Fixter 53 mins, 7), Whitehead 7, Varley 7, McGhee 7 (sub Harris 82 mins); King 8, Acar 8 (sub Lockie h-t, 7). Subs not used: Durkin, Smith.
Acar (19 mins, 0-1); King (72 mins, 0-2).
Varley, Stirrup (fouls); Grayson (dissent).
Paul Walker – ever-present last term and another key role.