Boston United got off to a stuttering start to the National League North season as they were thrashed 4-0 at Southport.
To compound their misery the Pilgrims ended the contest with nine men as Jack Broadhead left the field following a blow to the head and Boston look set to lose striker Gregg Smith for three matches following his sending off.
Referee Simon Mather showed the striker a straight red card just 15 minutes after he joined the game following an aerial collision with Curtis Jones, in which his flailing arm left the defender in a crumpled heap.
And as the game entered stoppage time Broadhead took a knee to the head which ended his afternoon early, although one positive to be taken was the midfielder refusing the stretcher and leaving the turf on foot.
Overall it was a miserable afternoon for the Pilgrims who looked second best for most of the contest, Adam Murray’s new-look side failing to play with the cohesion of the hosts, whose 16-man squad all joined the club this summer.
Steven Schumacher handed Southport a 14th-minute lead with a tremendous free kick, packed with both power and swerve.
Lining up the ball from the left-hand side of the United penalty area he unleashed a strike which left George Willis flapping as the net rustled and the first goal of the contest got the home crowdout of their seats.
United had the ball in the net moments later as Jordan Keane connected with Adam Chapman’s free kick, but the whistle had already been blown for offside before the defender forced his effort beyond Iain Turner.
The Sandgrounders looked to double their advantage as Andy White sent an effort over the bar and Liam Martin put a strike on the turn into the arms of Willis, while Boston’s response saw James Clifton’s dipper and Ashley Hemmings’ free kick fail to hit the target.
Martin made it 2-0 in the 35th minute as he latched onto a long punt forward, getting goalside of Jack Cowgill and - making the most of a moment of indecision between defender and keeper - prodding the ball beyond the onrushing Willis.
This sprung the Pilgrims into life once again with Hemmings’ powerful snapshot forcing Turner into action.
Were it not for Willis, the Sandgrounders could have had the contest wrapped up in the final moments of the first half.
But the Pilgrims stopper reacted well to tip Gary Roberts’ goalbound corner over his bar, before denying Martin with a brave body block as another deadball was allowed to drop in the box.
It was more of the same after the break as the hosts continued to look to add to their tally.
Substitute Alex Fletcher drove a 20-yarder inches over before Jones connected with Roberts’ delivery to head home from close range and make it 3-0 in the 54th minute.
How it wasn’t four only Jack Sampson will know as he submitted an early contender for miss of the season.
The big Sandgrounders target man met White’s low cross at the back post, but he led with the wrong foot and could only watch as a golden opportunity ended with the ball trickling out of play.
With half-an-hour to go Adam Murray made a triple change, bringing on Smith, Kabongo Tshimanga and Jack Broadhead for Harry Vince, Taron Hare and Karl Hawley.
And within seconds Tshimanga went close, only to see his low strike saved by Turner.
But Boston’s hopes of getting back into the contest were gone with the dismissal of Smith, shown a straight red card for clashing with Jones.
And insult was added to injury when Roberts smashed home Southport’s fourth of the afternoon in the 81st minute from outside the penalty area.
A day to forget for the Pilgrims, but the one bonus is that they still have 41 games to put things right.
SOUTHPORT: Turner, Jackson, White, C. Jones, Dugdale, Smith, Kissock (Jennings 79), Schumacher (Fletcher HT), Roberts, Sampson (Zama 78), Martin; Subs (not used): E. Jones, Roache.
UNITED: Willis, Hare (Tshimanga 59), Beatson, McGuire, Keane, Cowgill, Vince (Smith 59), Chapman, Hawley (Broadhead 59), Hemmings, Clifton; Subs (not used): Warren, Waite.
Att: 886 (141).
Ref: Simon Mather.