Colchester United kicked off the new League Two campaign with a 1-1 draw at home to Port Vale.

Luke Norris's goal just before the break earned the U's a share of the spoils at the JobServe Community Stadium, after Vale had led through Tom Pope's fifth-minute penalty.

After a mixed first-half display, the hosts were the better side in the second half but were unable to muster a winner in a closely-contested affair.

Colchester head coach John McGreal handed starts to three of his summer signings against Vale.

Jevani Brown and Dean Gerken both featured from kick-off along with left-back Cohen Bramall, who joined the U’s on Friday.

New arrivals Omar Sowunmi and Luke Gambin were on the bench but Ryan Jackson missed out through injury.

There was a sense of expectation and anticipation at kick-off, ahead of a brand new season.

But it did not take long for the U’s fans’ enthusiasm to be dampened somewhat.

After Colchester gave away possession deep inside their own half, Tom Lapslie brought down Manny Oyeleke in the box and Tom Pope slotted away the resultant penalty.

It was the worst possible start for the U’s, who looked nervous in possession in the minutes that followed the goal.

However, Frank Nouble looked their most likely source of profit as the half wore on and the former West Ham youngster almost equalised midway through the first half when he shrugged off the attention of James Gibbons midway inside the Vale half before driving towards goal and firing a low shot straight at keeper Scott Brown.

Brown then got a hand to Bramall’s deep cross to the far post soon after before gathering the ball at the second attempt.

And midway through the first half, Nouble’s low cross-shot was palmed away by Brown after Kane Vincent-Young had driven towards the Vale defence to set the chance up.

Vale almost doubled their lead ten minutes before half-time when David Amoo’s glancing header from David Worrall’s cross into the area dropped just wide for Vale.

But just when it looked as though Colchester would go in at the break behind, they struck an equaliser.

Luke Norris pounced from close range to score after skipper Luke Prosser had headed into his path at the far post, following good link-up play between Brown and Courtney Senior.

It meant Colchester went in at the break on level terms and they almost went ahead in the opening stages of the second half when Brown's fierce shot flashed just over.

The U's continued to press after that, although keeper Gerken had to be alert to pluck the ball out of the air from under his own crossbar just after the hour after Vincent-Young had inadvertently headed a free-kick towards his own goal.

Colchester made their first change of the game with 20 minutes remaining, sending on Luke Gambin for fellow new signing Brown in a bid to find a winner.

Tom Eastman made a fine, crucial tackle in his own area to deny Mark Cullen who would have only had Gerken to beat.

But with 12 minutes remaining, Colchester almost took the lead when Gambin’s curled ball into the box was pushed away low down by Brown as the clock ticked down.

Teenager Andre Hasanally was sent on in the closing stages for his full senior debut but Oyeleke almost won it for Vale in stoppage-time with a shot that whistled past the post, as the points were shared.