Scarborough Athletic were the architects of their own downfall as their Evo-Stik Division One North campaign began with defeat at Salford City.
Gary Bradshaw’s penalty miss when the game was in the balance proved to be the key moment, but ultimately it was a series of defensive lapses that undid 60 minutes of good work from Rudy Funk’s charges.
The game began in an open fashion with both teams stringing some decent attacking play together.
Although much-fancied Salford - now backed by Manchester United’s Class of ‘92 and boasting former Red Devils, Sheffield United and Leeds striker Danny Webber in their starting 11 - began the game as favourites there was little to choose between the sides in the opening exchanges.
A bustling run infield by Webber afforded Nicky Platt a sight of goal, but his effort flew harmlessly over, while at the other end Boro worked a couple of decent openings down their right.
The visitors seemed to be just nicely into their stride when, out of nothing, they fell behind in the 16th minute.
Left-back Andy Smart slung a diagonal cross into the penalty area and with Steve Burton caught under the ball Joe Madeley arrived behind him unmarked and was afforded enough time to take a touch before poking past Jason White for 1-0.
Although their positive early play had been undone in a matter of seconds, Boro responded well to falling behind.
Jimmy Beadle got forward to fire an effort wide from distance before Ryan Blott’s far post header was deflected just over the hosts’ bar.
From the resulting Ryan Williams corner, Beadle forced the ball into the Salford net, but his effort was ruled out for handball.
Gareth Seddon tested White with a glancing header, but Athletic continued to press and keeper Tom Stewart was forced into making a fine save from Gary Bradshaw’s strike to keep his side’s lead intact.
Steve Ridley was then caught in possession inside his own box, a mistake which resulted in Webber hitting the base of White’s post from a tight angle.
It was Boro who struck next, however, levelling the scores just a minute before the interval.
Ryan Williams’ attempted switch from left to right was cut out by Smart, but his heavy first touch afforded possession to Jordan Thewlis some 25 yards from goal.
The Seadogs’ winger cut infield from the right flank and left three defenders trailing in his wake before slotting the ball across Stewart and into the bottom corner of the home net.
Clearly buoyed by their equaliser, Funk’s men began the second half positively and should have taken the lead in the 55th minute when they were awarded a spot-kick.
Beadle was felled by Ammies skipper Chris Lynch after bursting into the penalty area, but Bradshaw’s effort from 12 yards was pushed wide by Stewart diving low to his left.
That was as good as it got for Boro, and Salford seized the initiative.
Just five minutes after Bradshaw’s failure from the spot, some fine skill and great awareness down the right from Webber provided his strike partner Seddon with a headed chance at the back post that he simply couldn’t miss.
Things got worse for Athletic soon after when a wreckless challenge by Joe Lamplough resulted in referee Mr Crompton pointing to the penalty spot for the second time in the afternoon.
Seddon coolly converted, and moments later he had his hat-trick when a long punt out of defence caught Burton and Ridley napping and the ball dropped nicely for the former Chester man to send a measured effort over White’s head.
Webber, who was plying his trade in League Two for Accrington Stanley last season, looked certain to take the score to 5-1 in the closing stages but his headed effort was kept out by a superb point-blank range save by White.
While Boro can take plenty of positives from their performance in the opening hour, their defensive frailties should prove real cause for concern.
Webber and Seddon may well be high-class strikers playing beneath their level, but in truth, Salford’s first, third and fourth goals could have been avoided had the basics of defending been adhered to.
While it is easy to be overly critical in the wake of a 4-1 defeat, Thewlis, right-back Paul Robson and the dynamic Beadle in particular deserve credit for their efforts.