Retford lost their 100% record in controversial circumstances as they suffered defeat at the hands of division new boys Athersley Recreation.
Athersley should have taken the lead in the first minute as Lee Bennett had a free header at the far post, but somehow put the ball over the bar from close range.
Craig Fisher managed to keep his balance under pressure as he made it to the byline, he managed to get the ball across but could only hit the roof of the net.
Liam Wilkin then had a shot that was straight at the keeper, before Reece Thompson overhit his pass trying to play in Fisher.
Athersley had an effort when Bennett fired over, but on 17 minutes Thompson pulled the ball back for Jake Stannard who found the back of the net to put United 1-0 up with the aid of a slight deflection.
Five minutes later, Retford were further in front, Liam Wilkin striking home after a flick from Lee Holmes to give United the perfect start to the game.
Athersley then won a free kick after a foul on Ryan White, and with Graeme Severn and Danny Smith challenging for a curling ball, an Athersley player went down and was given an inevitable penalty.
Lee Bennett squeezed the ball past Barford, who went the right way, to bring Athersley back into the game.
Retford had a man cautioned just before the break, Gav Cooper seeing a yellow for trying to win the ball then pushing the player to one side, a card that would have an impact later in the game.
Stannard then fed Wilkin who did well to skip over the advancing keeper only to be denied by a defender’s leg conceding a corner.
The half time team talk worked for the visitors as they were in front after only two minutes of the second half.
Joe Thornton cut in from the left to fire past Barford and level the scores, and just 60 seconds later Ryan White raced through an open United defence to pick his spot for the third.
Retford were stunned and looked for a way back into the game, Thompson almost finding a way through from Holmes’ pass.
The game took a twist on the hour as Holmes headed in at the far post, the referee initially awarding the goal before being called back by an assistant who declared the ball hadn’t crossed the line.
This sparked fury from Retford players and supporters, the ball having clearly crossed the line, but it was all to no avail.
Four minutes later Retford had another golden chance to level when White handled in the area.
Liam Wilkin stepped up from the spot having scored his previous two this season, but the ball crashed against the post.
The footballing gods were against the Badgers and after an effort from Gav Cooper was inches wide of the angle, the game took another twist against the home side when Cooper picked up a second yellow and was sent off.
Ten man United still battled, Severn curling a volley wide, whilst Athersley had further chances - Matt Roberts’ effort headed off the line by Walkden and Briscoe having an effort tipped over by Barford.
There was time for one last effort by Wilkin, an acrobatic shot over the bar, but the winning start to the season came to an abrupt end as the final whistle blew with players directing their anger at the officials.
Retford must refocus, and will be looking to progress in the FA Cup next Saturday as they travel to Belper Town in the Preliminary Round, with a trip to Ilkeston Town at stake.