AS OPENING days go, it will not linger in the memory for long.

Certainly, anyone harbouring fanciful thoughts that League Two will be a breeze were quickly brought thudding back down to earth.

The reality, as we all suspected, is that City will have to battle and scrap for every point if their return to the basement division is going to be a relatively short one.

Teams like Cambridge will camp en masse at Valley Parade and hang on grimly for everything they can get.

A glittering cast list counts for nothing in a league that is no respecter for names or reputations.

Just ask Shay McCartan, who knows exactly what it takes to conquer such an uncompromising environment.

A stubborn calf problem has prevented McCartan from featuring since coming back from a year-long loan with Lincoln.

But as he closes in on his first action, the Irishman has been able to pass on the knowledge of last season’s title success. And he has warned that success does not come pretty.

“It’s going to be tough because anybody can beat anyone on any given day,” he said. “The difference from top to bottom isn’t as great as in the higher leagues.

“You need to get a run going and then you’ll nick late winners, get 1-0 wins. Just work hard, it’s a real grind – but the grinders always do well.

“We had a good team on paper but you look at the other clubs and the players they had.

“Notts County were like the ‘Galacticos’ but it completely backfired – probably, similar to what happened at Bradford last year when they made some big signings but it didn’t materialise for whatever reason.

“The key is to work hard together as a group. That’s what the gaffer is trying to instil in us.

“We still have good players here – there are some talented people.

“If we can work together as a unit then promotion would definitely be on the cards.”

The 25-year-old started half of Lincoln’s league games and chipped in with seven goals. He did have the honour of scoring the most significant one against Cheltenham at Easter on the day that promotion was confirmed.

He admits the celebrations were slightly muted at the time, though, because a 1-1 draw meant they were hanging on for scores elsewhere.

McCartan added: “It was a nice feeling that my goal got us promoted but we weren’t sure if we were up at the end.

“We were hanging around waiting on other results before we found out we’d done it.

“Realistically, we knew we were up with a month to go. I think we were about 11 points clear.

“We were just waiting for it to happen, that’s probably why our results fizzled out a bit.

“But it was a special feeling when we won the league. The pitch invasion and everything was great.

“If that happens at Bradford, the whole city will be buzzing.”

McCartan can take heart from Jordan Gibson’s re-emergence in the picture since his return to Valley Parade.

He had also been on loan in League Two with Stevenage but has forced his way into Gary Bowyer’s plans after an impressive pre-season.

McCartan is hungry to follow suit back at a club he has found unrecognisable from the one he was shifted out of last summer.

He said: “There are only four players still here from before – Danny Devine, Jordan, Omari Patrick and Reevesy (Jake Reeves).

“It’s mad, really. That’s why it is like coming into a new club.

“Things have changed so much from then but in a good way.

“Last year I was only here for about 10 days and then I got shipped out to Lincoln.

“It worked out for me in the end but now I’m glad to be back and looking forward to being part of it again.”

And McCartan has an eye on another glittering prize for his family come the end of the season.

“I’ve got the medal from winning League Two back in Ireland,” he smiled. “It’s with my mum in the house.

“But there is still room for another one if possible. Two years in a row wouldn’t be bad!

“If we can follow the way that Lincoln did it last season, then I’m sure we’ll do all right.

"We've certainly got the players capable of achieving it.”