Daisy Hill’s hopes of moving back into the North West Counties League First Division North play-off places were dashed when they went down 1-0 to Ashton Town at New Sirs on Monday night.
A goal from Ashton’s player-manager Kevin Towey a minute before half time turned out to be the decisive moment in a keenly-contested end-to-end game, that could easily have produced more than one goal.
Ashton went into the game on the back of a 7-0 defeat at Darwen in their previous outing, and Daisy joint-manager Leighton Mills felt afterwards that result had worked against his side.
“We said before the game that we were playing them at the wrong time,” said Mills.
“When any team loses 7-0, you know you are going to get a reaction from the squad, and we knew coming into this game that it wasn’t going to be easy.
“They battled for everything, they were first to everything, especially in the first half, and they wanted it a bit more.
“They were a team that wanted to prove a point to their management, that they aren’t a team that should be beaten 7-0.
“They hit us with some big tackles and we went hiding and didn’t want the ball like we normally do.
“We said to our lads to go and match them for desire and attitude for 60 minutes, and then once they tired, our quality should show through.
“But Ashton got the vital goal at a good time, and held on. They sat nice and deep, left no space in behind and were always holding on for a 1-0 win.
“I just felt it didn’t fall for us. We hit the bar and the post in the first half, and I could just feel it was going to be one of those nights, and that’s how it turned out.”
It was a game that burst into life right from the start, with both sides on the front foot committed to attack.
Ashton’s first opportunity arose in the fourth minute when Kevin Pollard shot wide from a good position, and Daisy replied with a Connor Hughes shot that hit the side netting from the edge of the box.
Daisy keeper Kier Barry was then called on to make two good saves, first from Emini Adegbenro’s shot from 20 yards which was heading for the top corner, and then four minutes later he dived full length to his left to push away a Nathan Peet shot after good lead-up work from Adegbenro down the left.
Daisy’s best chances in the first half arrived within seconds of one another just before the half-hour mark, when a Connor Hughes shot hit the bar, and then when the ball was returned into the box, Jordan Hussey rose to power a header against the post.
But Ashton always looked threatening when they broke with pace down the flanks, and after another effort from Adegbenro just missed the target from 12 yards, the visitors finally broke the deadlock a minute before half time.
A sweeping move down the right led to the ball being played in low to Towey, and the Ashton player-manager steered a low shot in to the bottom corner to open the scoring.
The second half developed into a dogged midfield battle, with Ashton sitting deep to defend their lead and looking for chances to hit on the counter attack.
Although Daisy had the better of the possession, the well-drilled Ashton defence kept them at bay until the midway point in the second half, when Jack Coop’s shot on the turn inside the six-yard box was blocked at close range.
With 15 minutes remaining, Daisy full-back Jacob Ridings raced down the right before firing in a shot that Ashton keeper James McClenaghan tipped over for a corner.
But despite the hosts piling on the pressure as the clock ticked down, the Ashton defence held firm to collect all three points.
Daisy now face two crucial league games in the space of 48 hours, away to second-placed Chadderton on Saturday before hosting league leaders Pilkington at New Sirs next Monday night.