Salford City's unbeaten start to the league season came to a shuddering stop in the sunshine at Burscough, as the home side squabbled and quibbled their way to a 2-0 win.
Salford were behind after only six minutes, when keeper Kieran O'Boyle couldn't quite hold onto a shot and a Burscough forward was first to the rebound.
And things soon got worse for the Ammies when full-back Mike Aston had to be patched up after a bang on the head. But they nearly bounced back before half-time, when the ref awarded a penalty after a blatant handball. Up stepped Aston, his head bandaged like Terry Butcher in 1989, to take the spot-kick. Perhaps he didn't quite know who he was after his head injury. Barry Massay and Phil Power should have told him he's Matt Le Tissier before sending him back on because the kick was saved, and Salford's best chance of getting back into the game was gone.
A scrappy second half saw Burscough players bickering and moaning at every opportunity, with their loudmouth keeper taking it to Olympic standards by falling over dramatically when slightly brushed by Nelson Mota, and embarrassingly running forty yards up the pitch to try to intimidate the ref.
The pettifoggery and skulduggery continued even after Burscough went 2-0 up with a penalty after the ball bounced up and hit Aaron Walters on the arm. There was no way back for Salford.
But the Ammies will surely pick themselves up for their next two games. First, there's a home Manchester Premier Cup tie on Tuesday against local rivals Trafford.
And then on Saturday 28th September, a huge game at home to Darlington (who, like Halifax and Chester before them, have somehow ended up in Salford's division after being chucked out of the Football League). It could be one of the games of the season at Moor Lane.
Words and photos by Andrew Goudie