After 14 seasons in the NPL, Skelmersdale United left it late to secure a point in their first NWCFL match since 2005 with a 2-2 draw at Ashton Athletic.
Paul McNally's side came from behind twice to secure an opening day draw as after Athletic led through Dale Korie-Butler's 37th minute strike, on-loan Joshua Peet levelled on 57 minutes with Christopher Bandell restoring the lead just three minutes later, John Keatley stepped up in added time to deny the hosts a win.
United threatened almost instantly with a looping cross from Alex Griffiths forcing a save from Martin Pearson before Dale Korie-Butler drew a low stop from Jack Cookson at the other end. Both sides exchanged chances in the opening 20 minutes with John Keatley glancing a header at Pearson ahead of Ashton having the ball in the net after a clever cross from Saul Guffogg which saw Korie-Butler's effort then chalked off by the referee.
The hosts looked to be gifted the chance to score as Chris Bandell raced towards goal but superb chasing back from Keatley ended the danger before a chance from distance by Marcus Cusani saw him blaze over.
Former United winger Joshua Nicholson drew a strong stop from Cookson with a curling effort before the goal-frame saved Ashton from falling behind on the half-hour mark, Joshua Peet striking from distance, only to see his effort cannon back off the bar and Pearson to safety.
Nicholson pinged a shot off the United post at the other end with the half coming to an end with the sides still level at 0-0. The parity lasted just three minutes of the second half though as Korie-Butler collected a low cross to slot past Cookson for 1-0.
United levelled in style as after winning possession deep in the Ashton half, Peet rifled a rasping shot which flew past the dive of Pearson and into the net for 1-1 on 57 minutes. United's joy was short lived though after dispossessing Peet, Nicholson fired at goal, drawing a low save from Cookson but the parry fell kindly for Bandell to slot in for 2-0.
United looked to respond and came close with Keatley heading a Peet cross at goal with Pearson tipping the shot over the bar. Ashton should have wrapped up the points on 77 minutes as Bandell beat the offside trap and advanced on goal, Cookson narrowed the angle and forced the forward to hit right at him.
The game entered the final minutes with United still searching for an equaliser and they got it deep in added time, Liam Wood clipping the ball in for Keatley who glanced a header past Pearson into the net for 2-2 to the joy of the travelling Blues fans. The goal was literally the last action of the afternoon as the referee blew for full time before the hosts could restart. United celebrating a point on the road while Athletic were left to reflect on two points dropped.
Ashton Athletic- Pearson, Guffogg, Howard, Cringle (c), Gallagher, Wilson, Joshua Nicholson (Reid 71), Munro, Korie-Butler (Joe Nicholson 76), Bandell (Gaskell), Cusani. Subs not used- De Freitas-Hansen, Rothwell.
Skelmersdale United- Cookson, Glennon (Scoullar 63), Griffiths, Keatley, Tyrer, Peet, Wood, Coughlan, Cawley, McCormick (Djabi 55), Norris (Douglas 50) Subs not used- Keegan, Grimshaw.