Swindon Town got the 2017/18 Sky Bet League Two campaign off to a winning start this afternoon after beating Carlisle United 2-1 at Brunton Park.
Luke Norris and Paul Mullin both opened their accounts for the season either side of half-time, with Luke Joyce grabbing a consolation for the home side.
Both teams created chances in a frantic and action packed first-half on a rainy afternoon in Cumbria.
Norris, Mullin and James Dunne all tried their luck for the visitors, while Lawrence Vigouroux and the post were forced into action at the other end.
And it was the large travelling support that had something to cheer at half-time thanks to Norris, who put himself in the wars in order to open the scoring.
The new season cheer continued straight after the interval too with Paul Mullin marking his competitive debut with a goal to put the Robins firmly in the driving seat.
Carlisle clawed their way back into the game though thanks to Joyce’s strike and they were asking plenty of questions, but Swindon produced an outstanding defensive display to get the new term off to a flyer.
Taking charge of his first competitive game of the club, Town Boss Dave Flitcroft opted to hand debuts to six of his summer signings for our season opener.
Ben Purkiss, Olly Lancashire, Chris Hussey, James Dunne, Amine Linganzi and Paul Mullin were all named in the Starting XI, while fellow new arrivals Chris Robertson and Harry Smith were on the bench.
Lawrence Vigouroux, who was a standout performer last term, took his place between the sticks behind a back-four of Purkiss, Lancashire, Dion Conroy and Hussey.
John Goddard and James Brophy were tasked with supplying plenty of attacking flair from the flanks with Dunne and Linganzi providing a tough underbelly in the middle of the park.
And, after both enjoying fruitful pre-season campaigns, Luke Norris and Mullin were asked to lead the line.
New season, new start and the Reds certainly made an effort to prove that the pain of relegation last term was behind them as they impressed early on against their hosts.
Norris nearly created an opening for himself with just a minute on the clock after chasing down Carlisle stopper Jack Bonham, who was forced into making a rash clearance.
Town’s new strike partnership were causing plenty of problems early on with Mullin seeing a shot blocked and a header deflected into the arms of Bonham.
Mullin was in the thick of the action again moments later as he showed plenty of persistence before teeing up Norris, who warmed the palms of Bonham from the edge of the area.
It was all the visitors in the opening exchanges and they continued to knock on the door with Dunne hammering a drive straight at Bonham after Hussey’s free-kick was deflected into his path.
However, it was soon Carlisle’s turn to threaten and they went close on a number of occasions within a short period of time.
Vigouroux, a spectator up until this point, did brilliantly to react and tip Nicky Adams’ header over the bar, before Tom Parkes was only able to steer a Luke Joyce shot wide of the goal.
Mullin had another sight of goal at the other end after cushioning a header into the chest of Bonham, while the home side nearly made the breakthrough with Jamie Devitt slamming an effort against the post after being teed up by Hallam Hope.
Carlisle were keeping their foot on the gas with a succession of corners but it was Town who eventually made the breakthrough just past the half-hour mark.
After soaking up a spell of pressure, the Reds regained their composure and struck first thanks to Norris, who put his body where it hurt to get on the end of Hussey’s pinpoint free-kick and give his side a deserved lead.
It was a painful goal for the number nine though who was unable to continue, with Harry Smith taking his place.
Town were in their stride and were attacking with a real swagger and purpose, although they had to dig deep to defend four successive corners at the end of the first-half with Tom Miller heading wide as Norris’ goal proved the difference at the break.
With the wind firmly in their sails, Swindon came out all guns blazing in the second-half and they doubled their lead with just two minutes played.
Goddard let fire with a venomous effort and Bonham could only parry the ball into the path of Mullin, who was on hand to bundle home a debut goal.
Carlisle responded well to that set-back though and they pulled one back with 55 minutes on the clock courtesy of Luke Joyce, who curled home an effort from the edge of the box.
Hussey’s attempted cross after a short corner crept just over the bar as Town looked to find their groove again, and they opted to freshen up their attack bang on the hour mark with Ellis Iandolo replacing Brophy.
It was very much a case of a backs-to-the-wall job for the Reds the longer the second-half went on though with United doing everything in their power to try and restore parity.
After Smith saw his effort ruled out for offside, Richie Bennett tried his luck for the hosts twice in quick succession although both of his headers were no trouble for Vigouroux.
Town were doing an excellent job of keeping the home side at bay in the latter stages of the game with United unable to take their chances as Mark Ellis sent a looping header over the bar.
Bennett then nodded over from Adams’ cross and that proved to be it with Town able to celebrate their first three points of the new season.
TEAMS AND STATS:
SCORERS - Luke Norris (31), Paul Mullin (48), Luke Joyce (55).
CARLISLE UNITED (4-4-1-1) - Bonham; Miller (Richie Bennett 64), Liddle, Parkes (Mark Ellis 75), Grainger (C); Lambe, Joyce, Jones, Adams; Devitt; Hope (Shaun Miller 75).
Subs Not Used - George, Cosgrove, Salkeld, Egan.
SWINDON TOWN (4-4-2) - Vigouroux; Purkiss, Lancashire (C), Conroy, Hussey; Goddard, Dunne, Linganzi, Brophy (Ellis Iandolo 60) (Conor Thomas 82); Mullin, Norris (Harry Smith 34).
Subs Not Used - Henry, Robertson, T Smith, Twine.
CARLISLE - Mike Jones.
TOWN - Ellis Iandolo, Paul Mullin, Harry Smith.
Referee - Andy Haines.
Attendance - 6,036 (557 Away Fans).