Holwell Sports’ stuttering start to their first United Counties League campaign continued on Saturday with a heavy defeat at Burton Park Wanderers.
The scoreline was harsh on Holwell who, in spells, did more than enough to suggest they have the ability to get themselves back on track.
The squad available to boss Andy Gray should have been a better match for the hosts, but Holwell were badly hit by the 11th-hour withdrawal of the goalkeeper.
With no other natural keeper, Ben Betteridge volunteered to go between the sticks, weakening the left side of defence and forcing players out of position.
Betteridge made a confident start, doing well to save a rasping shot in the first minute and then parried away a fierce goalbound attempt.
But unfortunately his parry was gobbled up by debutant Mason Thomas to open the scoring.
Holwell went on the attack and from a corner, O’Grady stabbed the ball goalward only for keeper Clark to turn it away.
A good move involving Jack Baker and David Hazeldine ended with Kieran Foster shooting over as Holwell seemed to be getting to grips with the game.
But the hosts went close again when Gerrard’s shot hit the right-hand post and back across goal before Holwell cleared for a corner.
Campbell and Gerrard were beginning to run the show as Otshudy on the right and Mason on the left gave Surridge and Calver plenty of problems.
After 15 minutes Gerrard got return for his endeavours to double the lead with Holwell all at sea.
Matt Hendey passed up a great chance to haul the visitors back into the game moments later, shooting wildly over when unmarked.
But Burton intensified Holwell’s woes after 20 minutes when Campbell collected the ball and beat Betteridge, officials ignored Holwell’s appeals for offside.
There was no stopping Karabo Motshweni as he showed brilliant close control to weave his way through the Holwell defence to blast a fourth on the half-hour, a goal worthy of any level.
However, Holwell kept trying as Aaron Ridout headed a corner onto the bar moments later.
And they were rewarded for their tenacity five minutes before half-time when Baker beat four defenders and played in Hazeldine who clawed one back.
Holwell had further chances and Foster’s wayward shot over the bar could have given them more confidence to take into the break.
Ambrose replaced Cowling for the second half as Holwell set about restoring pride, but the home side were still on the hunt and Thomas struck again after 55 minutes.
To Holwell’s credit they pulled another back two minutes later when Baker supplied another great through ball for Foster. His shot was saved, but the rebound was tucked in by Ambrose.
Hendey wasted another chance on the hour mark as Holwell pressed, playing better than they had in the first half.
But the hosts were awarded a harsh penalty with 16 minutes left, given against Betteridge, and Thomas stepped up to complete a debut hat-trick.
Holwell battled to the end and Ridout forced home a third with eight minutes remaining.
Holwell: Betteridge, Calver, Surridge, Bitmead, Ridout, Hazeldine, O’Grady (Fjodorovs), Baker, Hendey (Nikolajevs), Foster, Cowling (Ambrose).