City 2, Notts County 1

Peter Thorne proved you are never too old to try something new.

The City hitman may be approaching the veteran stages of his career but he remains as deadly as ever.

You wouldn’t have noticed his advancing years as he doubled his tally on Saturday with a flying overhead kick – the first he has ever scored on the big stage.

County midfielder Adam Nowland got in a total mess in his own box, miscuing his clearance in the direction of Thorne, who promptly propelled it past startled stopper Kevin Pilkington.

Thorne laughed: “I can’t remember one coming off like that since I was at school! I’ve attempted a few scissor kicks in my career but I didn’t expect the first one to come at the age of 35.

“I thought to myself ‘have I got time to do this?’ as the ball came off their player. I decided at the last minute to have a go and luckily enough it flew in.”

His boss Stuart McCall later joked that the ground staff had to repair the crater that Thorne’s backside had left in the turf.

The frontman admitted: “There was a little bit of cramp kicking in afterwards but the first game is always hard.

“But like any striker, I’m always looking for goals. I was just desperate to get a hat-trick against them like I did last season and I thought I was in at the end but the ref gave a handball that wasn’t.”

At least referee Darren Drysdale did blow in that instance, because he seemed to have a phobia when it came to penalty decisions.

The scourge of the Valley Parade car park proved just as unpopular on the pitch after his refusal to award City three spot-kicks.

The first, for an early tug on Lee Bullock, could have been contentious; the handball when Omar Daley’s drive was blocked by a black-and-white striped arm less so.

But there was absolutely no doubt about Michael Johnson’s blatant shove in Barry Conlon’s back that somehow Drysdale allowed to go unpunished.

It was too much for McCall, who raced from his seat in the press box to get to the dugout where he could give the official his opinion in person.

But it was an afternoon packed full of strong views and lively incidents – a proper welcome back to real football after the phony war of pre-season.

The fans responded to the occasion with a crowd of 14,038 greeting McCall’s new-look warriors, who rewarded them with only their second win on opening day since 2001.

McCall said: “The new lads were wondering what it was going to be like. They’d played the Burnley friendly here but wanted to see the ground when there were fans all round.

“The support was superb again and the players are fortunate to get it. When you get backing like that it makes you feel stronger and you really enjoy playing.”

Injured Chris Brandon was the only one of the new guard missing and even Michael Boulding got a 15-minute run-out from the bench, skying a header with his first chance to notch in a claret and amber shirt.

The TL Dallas Stand at the Midland Road end was open to home fans for the first time and it was fitting that they should witness the first of hopefully many home goals in the season ahead.

Thorne underlined his new-found fame as Notts County’s “most hated” opponent by taking his tally against them to six goals in three games.

As he demonstrated midway through the opening half, Thorne has that priceless knack as a striker of being in the right place at the right time.

Paul Heckingbottom’s free-kick was scrambled unconvincingly out of the County box as far as Paul Arnison. The away defence pushed out and Thorne sat tight near the penalty spot, anticipating what the right back had planned.

Arnison, who looked far happier on his debut going forward than handling tricky winger Myles Weston, read it perfectly. Winding up as if to shoot, he instead swung the ball in low and hard and Thorne’s header did the rest.

The former Carlisle defender was not so confident when Weston took him on and the full back was grateful for the quick reactions of Rhys Evans after the winger had brushed aside his lunge and one from Graeme Lee a bit too easily.

That apart, Lee took his new role in the heart of City’s defence well. His partnership with Matt Clarke blossomed during pre-season and they make a solid match.

The biggest compliment you could say about the new skipper was that David Wetherall’s presence was not missed.

Evans followed up his confident displays in the home friendlies by doing everything asked of him with the minimum of fuss. He pulled off another important first-half save with his legs from Jamie Forrester.

In midfield, the new presence of Paul McLaren added that creativity which City lacked in the same department last term.

There is a nous about his play which was evident with the simple, but hugely effective, pass he rolled towards Daley to spark the goalmouth melee which produced the third penalty not given.

Daley had one of those games when everything he touched spelled danger. All right, he still needs to brush up on his defensive duties and City could have paid heavily when he left Arnison exposed to superior numbers on one occasion.

But, as McCall says, maybe we should take a “glass half full” view of Daley’s performance – and the attacking department was overflowing with inspiration.

Poor County left back Kerry Mayo won’t forget Daley in a hurry. The only reason it took so long for the inevitable yellow card to be shown was that most of the afternoon Mayo was left trailing in the Jamaican’s slipstream.

Daley’s piece de resistance, though, came on the left flank after Conlon had intelligently defused the danger in the City penalty area.

Rather than belting the ball into row Z, the Irishman picked out Daley on his starting blocks midway inside the half.

He launched into a Beijing-style sprint, covering 60 yards in the blink of an eye. Two defenders were left in his dust as he cut across the County box but unfortunately Pilkington had not read the script and an outstretched leg foiled an early candidate for the goal of the season.

But the keeper was beaten four minutes later by Thorne’s acrobatics and the three points should have been in the bag.

County’s good spell of pressure immediately after half-time had come to nothing but, as City’s midfield dropped a little deep, they still had too much of the ball.

So it was no great surprise when City’s advantage was halved as Weston brushed past Arnison to set up Richard Butcher at the near post.

McCall reacted by replacing his right back with the quicker TJ Moncur, who began his second coming as a City player with the orders to hold what they had.

City managed to do that – but not without another strong penalty shout being ignored after County substitute Sean Canham was bundled over.

Tempers were rising by that stage after the visitors refused to give the ball back when Evans threw it out of play for Daley to receive treatment.

Apologies between the two benches were accepted afterwards but safe to say McCall will tell his players not to knock the ball out again without the referee’s say-so.

A lively end to a lively game but City got the job done. Just another 45 of those to go.