THREE-MONTH bans are rarely considered a positive, and even the most optimistic of football folk would struggle to call such a lay-off a blessing in disguise, but Craig Bingham is doing just that.

The Little Lever manager is suspended from playing until the start of February for his part in a game of ‘madness’ against Atherton LR’s reserves, in which five players from the sports club, Bingham included, were sent off.

Player-manager Bingham, who captained the LAL’s inter-league side in a match last week, accepted his punishment – a two-game ban and £40 fine – but that was later upped to 85 days and £90.

“It was a mad game,” he told The Bolton News. “We haven’t had that ref before or since but he was just dishing out red cards for fun.

“One lad was sent off at half time for asking if he knew the other team’s lads and Chris Beattie was sent off for two ridiculous yellow cards early in the second half, it was just crazy.

“I was sent off after the ref barged into me during the game and told me off for what I was saying to my players, I told him I could say what I wanted to them because I’m the manager, but he showed me my second yellow.

“He reported it as a straight red and said I was swearing all the way down the tunnel.

“I know what I said and I admit that, but there isn’t even a tunnel I could walk down.

“Atherton LR backed me up too, which I’m grateful for, but I can’t play now until February 7.

“I’d prefer to be playing but I did enjoy just managing last Saturday, I could get stuck into them rather than giving a team talk that’s partly to myself, I think before the lads treated me more as a team-mate but I felt I had more authority on Saturday.

“And you can see more from the sideline, too.”

Despite Bingham’s enforced absence Little Lever did get a much-needed win, with two goals from Ryan Talbot following Reece Rowinski’s opening goal as they beat Old Blackburnians 3-0 to move up to ninth in the Premier Division table.

And with many of their close rivals involved in cup action this weekend, Bingham is aiming to buld on their victory and potentially climb to seventh with a victory at Bury GSOB.

“It was a cracking win on Saturday, we totally dominated them and I couldn’t have asked for anything more,” he added.

“We played well and we deserved it, we’ve been frustrated because we’ve been getting a few goals but letting in far too many so to get a win that makes up for Old Blacks beating us a few weeks ago [a 6-4 away defeat] was good because we’ve been playing better than the results suggest.

“I was going to ask them to step up and take charge while I’m out and they did that.

“We’ve got a new goalkeeper in, Jason Halliwell. He was always more into boxing but he’s joined and he’ll be a big plus for us. I thought he’d punch more high balls into the box but he comes and catches everything.

“I’ve said to them, though, there’s no point winning one game here or there, we need to get some back-to-back wins and with not many league games this Saturday it’s a chance to move up the table.

“The league has gone this year, without a doubt, but we’ve got a young team – I think the average age is about 23 – so while we can compete with anyone young lads struggle to do it consistently week in, week out which is why we’re not challenging yet.

“But the reserves are top of Division Two, so there’s plenty of good young talent, my job is to keep it together and in a year or two we should be very tough to beat.”

Blackrod Town brought home a point from their match at Burnley Belvedere, which ended 3-3 but Old Boltonians lost 4-3 at home to Rochdale St Clements.

Bolton Wyresdale still lead Division One despite their second defeat of the season, 3-0 at Clements’ reserve team and Horwich RMI suffered a 6-1 loss at home to Failsworth Dynamos reserves.

Meanwhile, local teams enjoyed a clean sweep of wins as the West Lancashire League’s cup competitions got under way last weekend.

Premier Division sides Turton and Tempest United each progressed to the second round of the Richardson Cup, courtesy of 1-0 wins.

The Tigers’ Emmanuel Yoak hit the only goal of their game at Euxton Villa and Tempest made it through thanks to Peter Lancaster’s 84th-minute winner at Southport Hesketh.

In the first round of the President’s Cup, CMB were 3-2 victors at Crooklands Casuals, with Tom McNair, Dan Crook and Will Archer netting. Eagley left it late in their tie at Kendal County but player-manager Simon Whaley saw them through with the only goal of the game – a 90th-minute strike.

Stoneclough required a penalty shootout as they made it through at visitors Leyland United’s expense, their 1-1 draw being followed by a 4-3 victory on spot-kicks.

In Division Two, Horwich St Mary’s Victoria still lead the way following their turnaround victory at Galgate.

Their second-bottom hosts led 2-0 at half time but four goals after the break, all scored by Matty Woods, gave them the victory that keeps them two points clear of Croston Sports in the table.

Hallmark Security league First Division North strugglers Daisy Hill continued their resurgence with a 3-2 win at home to Chadderton. Jamie Ramwell put the Daisies ahead within a minute of kick off, and Ashley Stott scored a second from the penalty spot.

But after Chaddy had hit back to level, Stott scored his second of the game – and his 11th in seven outings – to give them victory.

Atherton LR’s struggles go on, however, as they lost 1-0 at Nelson to remain rooted to bottom spot in the table.

In the Manchester League Premier Division, Bolton County won 1-0 at home to Walshaw Sports, Tom Axon-Smith hitting the game’s only goal.

There were defeats for Bolton Lads and Girls Club, beaten 6-2 by visitors Boothstown, and Breightmet United, who were on the end of a 9-0 loss at home to Middleton Colts.