City 1, Macclesfield 1

Valley Parade's 12th man claimed its first assist on opening day. Let's hope it's the first of many.

Macc boss Ian Brightwell moaned that rookie referee Graham Horwood was "bullied" by the crowd into awarding the decisive penalty. Good. Take a bow, supporters.

If that's the effect that boasting an attendance figure far too big for League Two will have on some officials, then let's have more of it.

After a tantalising summer of watching the season-ticket figure soar, the day of reckoning did not disappoint.

Nearly 13,500 turned up at the Coral Windows Stadium to greet City's first game back in the bottom league for a quarter of a century - and it may be more, with joint-chairman Julian Rhodes suggesting the high gate receipts could mean the crowd figure was even bigger than first calculated.

From the moment that Stuart McCall appeared on the touchline to a thunderous roar, you sensed this was the afternoon that the club was returned to the fans.

McCall has called for a united team effort, both on and off the field, if the promotion goal is to be realised. Here was proof as the roar cascaded down from three packed sides of the stadium.

The impact of a crowd 6,000 larger than the division's second biggest at MK Dons was felt two minutes before the break.

Horwood, officiating his first game in the league, had never taken charge in front of such an audience - and maybe the strain showed when he pointed to the spot for Kevin McIntyre's penalty-box challenge on Guylain Ndumbu-Nsungu.

City's new arrival from Gillingham claimed afterwards that it was a foul and he had the pain in the back of his right knee to prove it. Others were not so sure - including Macclesfield's Keighley-born goalkeeper Tommy Lee, who protested furiously.

Even McCall admitted that it looked a good tackle on first view and City were fortunate to get the decision but, coming right under the eyes of a baying Kop, the supporters put up a strong enough case if the referee needed any persuading.

Having waved away a better penalty shout for handling against Carl Regan two minutes before, this time Horwood blew straight away.

Even then the drama was far from over. Barry Conlon, who did everything right but score, put his kick too close to Lee's right and the keeper was able to parry - but Ndumbu-Nsungu was on his toes to bale out his new strike partner with the coolest of side-foots into the far corner.

It was a real example of a striker's composure which rightly earned praise from his boss, who was less amused by the shirt-waving celebration which earned the scorer an immediate yellow card.

I know rules are rules but it still seems stuffy that a player should be punished for showing his joy in front of his own fans, particularly on such a special afternoon for the club.

The only thing missing was the victory at the end of it; Valley Parade's wait for a first win since Christmas still rumbles on.

A home draw against a side tipped to be among the division's stragglers may seem nothing to write home about but there was plenty to be positive about.

The first day of the season is no time to judge anyone: look at some of the whacky results that are trawled out this time every year.

With a new-look team, boasting six different faces, it will take a few weeks for everything to gel but McCall, who had called for his side to entertain the fans, was suitably pleased.

A tally of 21 shots at goal illustrated City's positive intent with Alex Rhodes, in particular, and Omar Daley prowling the flanks and producing the steady stream of crosses the manager wanted. And encouragingly there were always bodies in the box to try to get on the end of them.

On another day City could have scored three or four. Lee, keen to impress friends and family, performed well in Macclesfield's goal while Conlon had enough opportunities to have repeated the hat-trick he fired past the same opposition 12 months earlier.

Conlon's hold-up play was impressive and his understanding with the intelligent Ndumbu-Nsungu will improve in the coming matches.

It may be another fortnight before Peter Thorne gets his first outing but, on Saturday's evidence, City have found an able replacement - certainly a more motivated one than David Graham, whose switch to Gillingham prompted McCall to make his move on Wednesday.

McCall had quietly feared another Stockport scenario on his homecoming, with an unfancied Cheshire side stealing an away win as was the case before.

And Macclesfield, 10-3 outsiders with the bookies, did their bit to upset the party by grabbing the lead after nine minutes.

City were caught going too gung-ho as Macc found too much room on the counter. Regan had space to exploit in the home half, committing a lunging Evans before teeing up Francis Green. The striker's finish in the bottom corner was clever but he should have been closed down.

It was an unexpected slap in the face but McCall's men responded strongly and were well worth their equaliser, however dubious its origins.

The second half was one-way traffic, Conlon going close with a diving header and then teeing up Daley for a one-on-one. The Jamaican eased the ball past the advancing Lee but against the outside of the post.

City's only scare was when the underemployed Donovan Ricketts turned his ankle clearing the ball. He wore an ice pack afterwards but will be all right for Wednesday's Carling Cup jaunt to Wolves.