CANTONA, KEANE and Giggs it was not – but just like 25 years ago, Swindon Town were held to a draw against Manchester United.

Granted, it was a far more youthful XI this time - and there was certainly less significance on this occasion.

Premier League points weren’t on the line for Town, instead pride and confidence ahead of a third consecutive season in English football’s fourth tier.

Six relegations and three promotions have occurred since Town last met the Red Devils.

But, determined to start a new era, manager Richie Wellens has a number of reasons to take encouragement from Town’s opening County Ground appearance. 

Trialist Lloyd Isgrove being one of those – the pacey ex-Southampton winger caused United’s youngsters a host of problems, and was rightly applauded by home supporters when substituted mid-way through the second half.

Mathieu Baudry again impressed, as did Jerry Yates who – despite not scoring – looked physical and composed in front of goal.

Adam May was prone to the occasional error, while Kaiyne Woolery’s runs were met by disappointment more than joy.

With less than two weeks remaining until kick-off against Scunthorpe, Wellens is now undoubtedly forming an idea of his visionary starting XI.

Tuesday’s game started brightly for Town, who took the lead in spectacular fashion with only seven minutes played.

Following a poor defensive clearance, trialist Lloyd Isgrove poached the ball and struck a powerful shot beyond United ‘keeper Paul Woolston’s left reach.

Fans’ reaction to the goal was perhaps tinged with more enthusiasm and reason than the majority of Town’s goals in the competitive League Two season last year. United were off the mark at times, sloppy even. Misplaced passes at key moments made their threat in front of goal a pot odds insignificance for Luke McCormick.

Similarly, Town’s defence forced errors. Mathieu Baudry and Dan Ballard in particular stood strong, allowing full backs Rob Hunt and Zeki Fryers to stretch their legs down both chalks.

Pressure on the counter should have resulted in Town’s second. The two trialists – Lloyd Isgrove and Paul Anderson – linked up to force United’s Ethan Laird into a woeful defensive blunder inside the visitors’ six-yard box. Woolston’s quick reaction denied Anderson a look in on goal, though.

Jerry Yates’ improvement in front of goal since Town’s 6-1 win at Brimscombe & Thrupp three weeks ago was noticeable. The former Carlisle man stood tall, and was unlucky not to find the target when his powerful shot on the half-hour mark was blocked following a free-kick from the right.

Then, minutes from half-time, a neat Michael Doughty run that dodged United’s offside trap sent Woolery through on goal. The 24-year-old fluffed his lines – uproar would’ve no doubt been provoked on the terraces had that miss occurred on a competitive matchday.

In all, though, a satisfying first 45 minutes for Wellens.

No changes were made at half-time, underlining the squad’s improvement in fitness levels since pre-season started four weeks ago.

Baudry was again prolific in the air upon the game’s resumption. But Isgrove’s efforts on the right were as equally eye-catching – though his dangerous cross on 49 minutes was intercepted before Yates could nod home a second. Besides Largue Ramazani’s muted penalty appeal, little happened in the 10 minutes that followed as the hour mark passed.

May emerged with the ball in the centre circle minutes later and neglected Woolery’s bursting run to try his luck from range. His effort was sent over United’s crossbar, and the midfielder was promptly subbed.

United then levelled from the spot with 68 minutes played – Dylan Levitt sending Luke McCormick the wrong way, prompting a few cheers from the younger spectators in the home section of the Arkell’s Stand.

A series of substitutions followed, none of which had any major impact on the game which United enjoyed the better of following their successful penalty kick.

Town return to pre-season action on Saturday when Mark Robins’ Coventry City visit the County Ground (3pm).

Swindon Town: Luke McCormick, Rob Hunt, Mathieu Baudry (Tyler Reid, 63’), Dan Ballard (Taylor Curran, 81’), Zeki Fryers (Tom Broadbent, 76’) , Michael Doughty (Trialist, 81’), Adam May (Jordan Lyden, 63’), Paul Anderson (Scott Twine, 76’), Lloyd Isgrove (Ellis Iandolo, 76’), Kaiyne Woolery (George Newell, 86’), Jerry Yates (Brandon Thomas-Asante, 76’).