Carlisle United 1 Fleetwood Town 1: This could have been any score – and that’s just the added time. But from the energy and chaos and good things and frustrations of 108 minutes, this goes down as a creditable return to League One for Carlisle, with immediate light also shone on the demands of the division.

The Blues, on the basis of this high-effort tussle, need not fear the level. The best of what they did last season can also clearly help them here: their front-foot intent, their pressing, plus the silk (as long as he’s here) of Owen Moxon.

They were also reminded of the thinner margin for error in the third tier, highlighted by Brendan Wiredu’s goal which snipped the joy from Moxon’s beautiful free-kick. Fleetwood might have punished Carlisle at other awkward stages.

Yet…Carlisle might have punished their guests too. As Paul Simpson said, the clearer chances were theirs. A draw, then, is a fair reading of a game where referee Peter Wright was also even-handed in annoying both camps.

News and Star: Jon Mellish wins a headerJon Mellish wins a header (Image: Barbara Abbott)

United can step forward in good heart, and the only taints on the day were the throwing of objects from the Warwick Road End which brought forward two Public Address warnings, and the serenading by some away fans of Fleetwood’s owner who is doing 13 years for fraud.

How his victims, who included a charity and a business supporting adults with learning disabilities, must have enjoyed hearing “There’s only one Andy Pilley”. Some folk, clearly, are oblivious to good sense. Otherwise, though, this was about United’s long-overdue return to this rung of English football, a 10,000 crowd an appropriate way to welcome them back, enough promotion momentum still there, and a real thrash at it in terms of performance from Simpson’s team.

It was always likely to be an instant yardstick, too, against a team who finished bang in the middle of this division last term. So it proved. Fleetwood provided a good-calibre test in terms of their ball play, movement between the lines and persistence.

News and Star: Debutant Luke Plange takes on Danny MayorDebutant Luke Plange takes on Danny Mayor (Image: Ben Holmes)

Carlisle met that challenge and, if they rode their luck on occasion, so did Fleetwood. A sharper finishing edge could have won this game for both sides and that is something the Blues must look to refine as they go further into this journey.

Pluses lay in the collective spirit Carlisle showed, the determined snap they put into things, as well as the individual showings of such as Moxon, whose position at the heart of speculation hasn’t diverted his focus on this evidence. Jordan Gibson floated skilfully at times and, at the back, Sam Lavelle looked a sound addition.

What is also clear is that this is going to be a step up of stages, as well as a knackering one. If this is an example of the added time we’re going to routinely see, a result of a clampdown by refereeing leaders, then players will be pushed harder, bodies stretched even more.

News and Star: Fin Back prepares to take a throw-inFin Back prepares to take a throw-in (Image: Ben Holmes)

Simpson laid out his concerns about that afterwards, but was otherwise pleased with the basis of United's afternoon. With that crowd, that buzz, it was another rewarding day in Carlisle’s rise, and the first opportunity to answer post-promotion questions.

Fleetwood, with dangerous players like Danny Mayor, showed United the heightened standard. Initially the Blues were given some chasing to do, and survived one scare when Mayor robbed Moxon and Promise Omochere failed to beat Tomas Holy. Another came soon afterwards when Josh Vela failed to head past the keeper, but about 15 minutes into the half United's better colours came back out.

They put more pace into their game, looked more confident and coherent in bustling around Fleetwood. Luke Plange’s industry up front set a platform. Gibson drifted into some useful pockets behind him and tested keeper Jay Lynch more than once. Omochere cleared a Paul Huntington header from under his bar as the rumble went on…then Moxon stamped his class on things with that sweet free-kick.

News and Star: Owen Moxon scoresOwen Moxon scores (Image: Ben Holmes)

Seventeen years after a Cumbrian scored for United as League One newcomers (Paul Murray), another did it here. Unlike then, though, there was a bite back, Fleetwood pulling the Blues out of shape just enough to isolate Wiredu in the box, as he creamed Phoenix Patterson’s cross past Holy in first-half added time.

You’re in League One now, lads, was the message. Don’t expect leniency at any moment.

Carlisle should have issued their own riposte, but their best efforts in the second half lacked the potency Simpson has long been at pains to add and still is. Gibson miscued a lovely Fin Back cross which had left Lynch stranded at his near post, and that almost let Fleetwood in as Omochere wriggled onto a Vela cross but fired across goal.

News and Star: Joe Garner heads for goalJoe Garner heads for goal (Image: Ben Holmes)

Shaun Rooney’s arrival, for the injured Wiredu, gave the visitors a tall, galloping outlet on the right and the threat was always there from Scott Brown’s side. Carlisle’s opportunities were intermittent – Alfie McCalmont failing to make the most of one – but their application was there, their coverage of ground always at a maximum.

Referee Wright, meanwhile, was nobody’s friend and the challenge that brought Jon Mellish down in the 81st minute had the look of a penalty. Fleetwood had their own grievances with the official while, from the remaining exchanges, Lavelle blocked well from Jack Marriott (who had tamely finished an earlier chance), Joe Garner failed to head a fine Jack Armer cross past Lynch, Maleace Asamoah (son of Derek) gave Fleetwood some late energy up top, Sean Maguire gave glimpses of his attacking wit for Carlisle, and  Cian Hayes couldn’t guide in a last-gasp shot for Fleetwood.

News and Star: Sean Maguire made a second half debutSean Maguire made a second half debut (Image: Ben Holmes)

"It’s given me belief, hopefully it’s given them belief,” said Simpson of his players’ opening show. “What I would say is we’ve got 45 more to go. We haven’t even scratched the surface. We’ve got so much more that we need to do.” Do it, on this evidence, they can.