FOOTBALL is back, thank goodness. England’s performance at this summer’s World Cup had somewhat whet the appetite for the return of competitive action, and it did not disappoint.

I timed my summer holidays so I would return the day before the National League South kick-off. A delay meant I wasn’t home until 3am but 12 hours later I was in place at East Thurrock United for their match against Woking.

Despite the absence of manager and captain/star striker, Rocks put in a fantastic display against one of the division’s favourites and can consider themselves very unfortunate to come away empty-handed.

Too often last season, refereeing standards dropped below what is expected. I know this is not the Premier League and it is rare anyone will agree on decisions anyway but I truly hope Saturday is not a precedent for what is to come.

While the decision not to award Ryan Scott’s goal was perhaps understandable – with the assistant referee’s view clearly blocked and the call extremely marginal – the 95th minute penalty award was one that baffled fans and players alike.

The speed of the player saw him hit the deck rather than the nature of Tom Stephen’s challenge, with the 50/50 never likely to be a foul. As the Woking media team celebrated the award next to me, they halted mid celebration and turned to tell me ‘that was never, ever a penalty’.

Elsewhere, there were positive results for Billericay Town and Concord Rangers.

Concord overcame a man deficit to defeat Gloucester City and kept a clean sheet to boot, arguably the most pleasing aspect being the resilience of the team following poor starts in the division in recent years.

A better gauge of their credentials will come tomorrow against Billericay.

A huge budget and momentum from last season will naturally see them installed as one of the favourites for promotion. Anything less than play-offs will be a failure.