Oxford United's first season in non-League football for 44 years got off to a flying start with an excellent opening-day win at the Kassam Stadium on Saturday, thanks to that man Andy Burgess again.

Controversy may have surrounded Oxford's first goal in the Nationwide Conference, which came from the penalty spot from Rob Duffy after 16 minutes.

But there was no disputing their second from the talismanic Burgess, who collected the ball in space 20 minutes from time and curled a stunning left-footed shot around Halifax keeper Craig Mawson and into the top corner.

It was a goal good enough to grace the Premiership, let alone the Football League, from which the U's had departed three months ago.

With Halifax having reached the play-off final in the Conference at about the same time, this match was a good guide to the standard Jim Smith's men need to attain if they are to challenge for pro- motion.

And what became clear, straight away, is that there are some useful footballing teams in the top tier of the non-League game. Halifax passed the ball very well, probably better than most teams the U's met last season, but their attacks were snuffed out by a strong Oxford defence.

With their new three-man central defence, with John Dempster providing a formidable barrier in front of them, and with Gavin Johnson strong on the left flank and Eddie Anaclet pacy on the right, there are not many opposing teams who will create many chances at the Kassam Stadium this season.

Going forward, United only really played with freedom and expression in the second half, when there was more space.

They gave the ball away too often, and neither Burgess, early on, nor the combative Eddie Hutchinson, appeared to be firing on all cylinders.

But United got the boost of an early goal.

Duffy ran into the box to meet Carl Pettefer's pass from the left, reached the ball just ahead of goalkeeper Mawson and then fell after clattering into his chest.

From some angles, and quite possibly from referee Phil Gibbs' view, it was a clear body-check, but Mawson felt he could do nothing about the challenge and when Mr Gibbs immediately pointed to the spot, it seemed harsh on Halifax.

But Duffy remained calm, picked himself up and buried the spot-kick low into the bottom left corner to send United on their way.

It had been a strange start for him.

Oxford's rehearsed routine from the kick-off went wrong, and left him feeling a sore ankle.

Straight from the kick-off, Burgess played the ball out to the right, overhit it, and in trying to jump high to reach the ball, which flew over his head, Duffy landed awkwardly, and painfully, on the pitch perimeter.

But by the time he had put away the penalty, that was long for-gotten.

Eddie Anaclet had a couple of mazy runs down the right, cutting the ball back from the bye-line only to see none of his teammates getting on the end of them.

Gavin Johnson and Anaclet switched sides for a spell but Johnson was back on the left by the time he crossed superbly for Duffy, five minutes before the break. This time, though, Duffy couldn't get under it and headed wide. Halifax's New Zealand international Shane Smeltz fired in a long-range shot, but it barely tested Billy Turley in the Oxford goal.

Town right back Steve Haslam was booked for protesting about the penalty decision, though the ref didn't yellow-card the keeper for the foul, suggesting he thought it was partly accidental.

And at the start of the second half, there was a further flurry of cards as the tackles flew in and tempers rose.

Matt Day was booked for a bad tackle, and Martin Foster's free-kick from 20 yards deflected wide.

Then United keeper Billy Turley struggled to punch clear the corner, when put under pressure by both the number of bodies around him, and the swirling wind.

A flare-up near the centre circle, which led to players from both sides racing over, ended with Hutchinson and Ryan Sugden's names going into the referee's notebook.

Burgess went close to making it 2-0 when he whipped the ball off the toes of defender Mark Roberts and struck an 18-yard right-footed shot. It proved a comfortable save for Mawson, though.

Halifax felt aggrieved that they didn't get a penalty just before the hour when Matt Doughty ended a run from the left with a shot which hit Barry Quinn on the hand. The ref judged it was ball to hand and waved away the visitors' appeals.

Doughty's frustration was clear as he then lunged in against Anaclet, and was booked.

Jim Smith brought on Yemi Odubade for Hutchinson and that gave the Shaymen's defence something else to think about.

And with 20 minutes to go, Burgess wrapped up victory with his brilliant goal, one which earned a standing ovation from the best part of 5,000 spectators.

The second goal enabled United to relax more, and with Steve Basham and then Chris Hargreaves coming off the bench to play their part in the closing stages, they maintained their attacking threat until the finish.And at the other end, though Town got forward and Chris Senior went close with a shot driven just over the bar, United were determined to keep a clean sheet, and they defended well to ensure they got one.

As a performance, it had been patchy. But it was a win, which was priceless.