IF this is what watching Middlesbrough under the guidance of Jonathan Woodgate is going to be like, the fans are going to be in for one hell of a ride.

The former Boro skipper promised supporters ‘it’s time to get excited’ after fully appreciating how his hometown had become bored with the football that has been served up on Teesside of late.

And in his very first competitive game in charge he watched his players, who were sent out to attack and press whenever they could at Kenilworth Road, return to Teesside with a point after a thrilling six-goal opener to the new season with the country watching.

He must have felt like he would start on a winning note on a couple of occasions, only to be left frustrated on a night when Middlesbrough led with ten minutes remaining and kept attacking, ultimately paying the price. Woodgate promised goals, and they certainly arrived.

Ashley Fletcher had headed Middlesbrough in front inside six minutes only for Championship new-boys Luton Town to turn things around and take the lead when Sonny Bradley’s stunning leveller in the 17th minute was followed by Martin Cranie’s header seven minutes later.

But Middlesbrough found themselves level before the break when Britt Assombalonga embarrassed the Hatters’ goalkeeper Simon Sluga, paving the way for Lewis Wing to then brilliantly put Woodgate on course for a win with a third 21 minutes from time.

Had Assombalonga converted a penalty with eight minutes remaining, instead of completely missing the target, Woodgate would have got his opening day wish.

Instead Middlesbrough allowed Luton the space to equalise once more through James Collins just a few minutes later.

After that Luton, who forced Darren Randolph into a stunning late save, could easily have won it, but Middlesbrough returned north having entertained supporters – just like Woodgate had said they would.

The Teessider was always going to be a proud man when he took his place in the dug-out, but it was also a special night for the opposition so it was never going to be a straight forward affair.

This was Luton’s first Championship fixture since 2007 when Roy Keane’s Sunderland celebrated winning the title on a day when the Hatters fell into League One – and it was the first time these two sides had met since the final game at Ayresome Park in 1995.

While Luton boss Graeme Jones, a former Middlesbrough academy coach, was looking for the brightest of starts in front of a vocal and passionate home crowd, Woodgate was eager to see if his pre-season message would come true.

He demanded attacking football from his men without starting with any of his three summer signings, with winger Marcus Browne and left-back Marc Bola included on the bench. Tomas Mejias, the other, was overlooked because of a preference to have youngster Aynsley Pears in the 18.

After Woodgate, open shirted and without the club red tie he arrived in, had walked across the pitch from the tunnel to the dug-out applauding the travelling fans there to support him, he soon had the start he would have dreamed of.

Fletcher had already rolled an effort marginally wide from 18 yards when he had the opener to celebrate seconds later. Marvin Johnson, given a fresh chance under the new boss, had a second opening to deliver from the flank and with it he found Fletcher and his header beat Sluga.

At that stage, and for a good few minutes after, Middlesbrough looked full of confidence and intent. Sluga had also gathered an effort from Wing after Johnson, who went close himself later in the half, had picked him out 20 yards out.

But Luton didn’t allow Middlesbrough’s promising start to derail their own approach. With Andrew Shinnie, a former Boro target during Strachan’s days in charge, pulling the strings in the middle, the men wearing white shirts were given plenty to test them.

Even though defensively they looked reasonably strong when the hosts looked to break them down, former defender Woodgate will have been deeply frustrated by the manner of the two goals that swung the game in Luton’s favour.

It took a moment of brilliance from Luton captain Bradley to level things up when he floated a beautiful 22-yard volley inside Randolph’s top right corner, but Middlesbrough had a few chances to clear the Shinnie corner that led to it.

Seven minutes later Shinnie sent over another corner from the other flank and this time another defender Cranie, who did have a spell with Middlesbrough, headed in from close range after evading the attention of Johnson.

At that point Luton looked hungry for more, but Middlesbrough held their nerve and grew in confidence going forward. There had been a few worries for Jones’ defence – including a fine save from Sluga from a Johnson curler - before Fletcher capitalised on a midfield error by feeding Assombalonga.

The leading scorer of the last two seasons controlled and shot low towards the bottom corner and Sluga somehow allowed the second equaliser of the night to slip under him with half-time approaching.

Even then Callum McManaman could have volleyed Luton ahead before the break from an unmarked position and, given how the first half unfolded, it was always likely there would be more drama after the restart.

There were instant chances too. Collins was booked for putting the ball in the Middlesbrough net with his hand, while Paddy McNair shaved the crossbar with a cross-cum-shot.

But as the second half wore on Middlesbrough’s resilience grew and they gained a greater foothold on things. They had shown signs that they might be able to reclaim the lead, and then they did in the finest of fashions.

When Wing was given possession deep inside the Luton half, the goal-hungry midfielder knocked the ball from under his feet before curling a rasping right-foot effort from 25 yards inside Sluga’s near post.

Assombalonga should have put the game to bed with nine minutes remaining with his wasted spot-kick, after the lively Hayden Coulson had been tripped by Cranie, and then Luton made them pay.

When gaps appeared in the Middlesbrough backline, Luton attacked down the right and worked the ball across to Collins and he then did the rest by beating Randolph low to level again. What a start for Woodgate.