COLCHESTER United battled to a hard-fought goal-less draw at Carlisle United, on the opening day of the new League Two season.

The U's drew 0-0 on the first day of the campaign for the second successive year following a keenly-contested battle at Brunton Park in front of their 200-plus travelling fans, in a contest where defences were largely on top.

U’s goalkeeper Shamal George was in excellent form, pulling off a number of fine saves to help ensure that his side made the long journey home from Cumbria with something to show for their efforts.

Colchester head coach Hayden Mullins handed starts to six of his summer signings, with Luke Chambers, Cole Skuse, Alan Judge, Frank Nouble, Freddie Sears and Cameron Coxe all featuring in the line-up.

Only six players who started Colchester’s final game of last season at Tranmere – Nouble, Shamal George, Tom Eastman, Tommy Smith, Brendan Wiredu and Ryan Clampin – were in the starting line-up at Carlisle.

Kick-off was delayed for 15 minutes to allow fans to get into Brunton Park, on the opening day of the season.

And when the game finally started, it was the Cumbrians who were quickest out of the blocks.

Tristan Abrahams lifted a sixth-minute shot over the bar from just inside the area after the U’s had failed to deal with a ball into the box.

And soon after, former Colchester winger Brennan Dickenson’s long-range effort sailed over the bar after Callum Guy’s corner.

Carlisle kept up the fast tempo and Lewis Alessandra’s shot flew just wide of the post, after Colchester had failed to deal with a Carlisle attack.

Colchester were rarely seen as an attacking force early, although Nouble was unfortunate to fail to connect properly with Sears’ low cross in the area after Judge’s clever touch had sent the former West Ham man away.

Carlisle squandered a glorious chance just before the half hour.

After a cross into the box was missed by Abrahams, the ball fell conveniently to Corey Whelan who wastefully side-footed straight at George from a very good position.

And soon after, George superbly palmed away Rod McDonald’s header from Guy’s corner for a corner, as the hosts pressed.

But as half-time approached, Colchester began to look more threatening.

Coxe found space on the Carlisle left after a quick Skuse free-kick but scuffed his shot wide of the near post, while Smith’s downward header from Judge’s free-kick into the box was easily claimed by Norman.

Colchester’s best attempt came on the stroke of half-time when Judge’s snap-shot forced Norman into a save, as the sides went in at the break goal-less.

What followed after half-time was an even affair, with both sides battling hard to make the breakthrough.

Much of the contest was played out in midfield with defences largely on top but Carlisle had a glorious chance to break the deadlock, midway through the second half.

Skuse made a fine covering run to help deny Dickenson who had raced clear on goal after the hosts had broken from a U's corner, with George eventually smothering the ball.

George made another vital stop seconds later to foil Mellish after he had been found by Riley, following another swift Carlisle break as the hosts turned the screw.

With 14 minutes remaining, George made a superb double save to deny both Abrahams and Mellish from close range in quick succession, much to the anguish of the home fans.

Colchester introduced new loan signing Sylvester Jasper with ten minutes remaining but neither side could break the deadlock, as the points were shared on the opening day.

COLCHESTER UNITED: George, Chambers, Eastman, Smith, Coxe, Wiredu, Skuse, Clampin, Judge, Nouble, Sears (sub Jasper, 81).

Subs (not used): Welch-Hayes, Chilvers, Kennedy, Tchamadeu, Tovide, Turner.

Carlisle United: Norman, Tanner, Armer, McDonald, Whelan, Guy, Dickenson (sub Toure, 85), Mellish (sub Mampala, 77), Alessandra, Riley, Abrahams.

Subs (not used): Charters, Feeney, Bell, Clough, Jensen.

Referee: Peter Wright.

U’s man of the match: Shamal George.

Bookings: Carlisle: Mellish (foul, 42), Whelan (58).

Attendance: 6,382 (202 U's fans).