A hotly-disputed equaliser put the skids under Holwell Sports as they succumbed to defeat at home to Rushden and Higham on Saturday.
With Welby Road getting its first taste of the United Counties League, Holwell let a lead slip after conceding an equaliser on the stroke of half-time which left home fans and players calling for offside.
The match started well for the hosts as they pressured Rushden from the start, with Ross McGarry going close after a good move involving Jack Baker.
McGarry again went close to the opener when he headed Betteridge’s cross goalwards, but Rushden keeper Swailes denied him.
Rushden’s only way out in the opening stages came through left winger Nat Gosnal-Tyler who used his pace to torment Robinson, but the full-back did well while in the middle, Bitmead and Ridout policed tall centre-forward Townsend.
With the home midfield running the show, Holwell deservedly went ahead after 25 minutes when Baker stabbed the ball home at the back post after good work from Ambrose and McGarry to win possession and send a ball back across goal.
But despite continuing to dominate, Andy Gray’s side could not finish the chances they were making as the forwards seemed hesitant in dangerous positions.
And in the 44th minute, the hosts paid the price.
Rushden moved the ball through the middle, but as the defence moved up, Townsend looked to be in a clear offside position, even initially hesitating as he received the ball.
Keeper Witham, like everyone else, had stopped, expecting play to be called back as Townsend carried on to slot the ball home, but the goal was given.
The incident proved the turning point in the match.
As the teams came back out, the home side still looked rattled, and within two minutes both Wills and then Gonal-Tyler had chances to put the visitors ahead.
The officials added to the frustration as poor tackles rained in all over the park, with Ambrose, Thompson and Baker particular targets.
The football became scrappy, secondary to the frustration from both sides.
First in the book was Rushden’s left-back Duroe, who went straight through Baker, followed by Townsend for dissent.
Hazeldine replaced McGarry, who had put in a strong shift, to give the home side some fresh legs in midfield as Thompson was moved further up field.
But Rushden were still dangerous and Bitmead did well to stop Gonal-Tyler, this time on the right, conceding a corner which captain James Russell swung deep to the far post.
Witham appeared to have taken an outstretched arm to the face as he went for the ball, and the corner sailed straight in.
Holwell tried, but could not recover as their frustration took its toll, culminating in a red card for Ambrose after comments made to the referee following the final whistle.
One to put down to experience and learn from for Holwell as they prepare to welcome Irchester United to Welby Road on Saturday. Kick-off is 3pm.
Holwell: Witham, Robinson, Bitmead, Ridout, Betteridge, Baker, O’Grady, Thompson, Chapman (Hendey), McGarry (Hazeldine), Ambrose. Subs not used: Surridge, Stevenson, Binns.