Super sub Gary Austin came off the bench to salvage a 1-1 draw for Horndean against Downton as the Five Heads Park club celebrated their return to the Wessex League premier division.
Austin had only been on the pitch for five minutes when his pace took him behind the visitors’ defence.
And his cool finish provided a 60th-minute equaliser for Dave Carter’s men.
‘It is always difficult starting against a team who came up with you and the main objective was not to get beat,’ said the Horndean boss.
‘We played some fantastic football in the first half but failed to put away a whole series of chances.
‘For 15 minutes after the break though we looked a completely different team, though. We were rubbish.’
In the opening 45 minutes, Bryn McKie and Torr Spicer went close to breaking the deadlock.
Downton went in front early in the second half following a mistake by debut-making Jack Warren before Austin hit back.
Austin missed an even better chance soon afterwards to win the game when one-on-one with the goalkeeper.
‘We were the better side and will play a lot worse this season and win,’ said Carter.
Fareham Town manager Matt Parr admitted he was taken by surprise as his side made a winning start by beating Totton & Eling 2-0 at Cams Alders.
The Reds suffered a player exodus in the summer and Parr has worked hard to put a side together.
‘It is always nice to be surprised in a positive manner,’ said the Reds boss.
‘Two of our new players scored the goals which was even more pleasing. As a unit we looked quite solid at the back.
‘We know we face a long season ahead but we have started on the right foot.’
Fareham went in front from the penalty spot five minutes before half-time after Rob Tambling, newly arrived from Hayling, was upended.
Other newcomer Barnes Andrews stroked home his spot-kick and two minutes from time Tambling made sure of the win with a fine shot from just inside the box.
Moneyfields produced an outstanding team performance to start with a 3-2 win over Christchurch at Dover Road.
‘All the players did their job and I can’t ask for any more,’ said manager Miles Rutherford.
‘We could have done without conceding two sloppy goals but it gives us something to build on for the rest of the season.’
Jamie Hore and Steve Hutchings, the latter with a brave finish at the far post, put the home side in the driving seat before Christchurch pulled a goal back from the penalty spot before the break.
Rob Evans restored the two-goal advantage on 65 minutes but the hosts had to hang on when the visitors struck again five minutes from time.
Hayling United had striker Lenny Burney sent off as they slipped to a disappointing 3-0 home defeat at the hands of Lymington Town.