A penalty from skipper Jake O’Brien 14 minutes from time earned Daisy Hill a 2-2 draw in the North West Counties League First Division North derby clash with Atherton LR at Crilly Park on Boxing Day.

LR’s leading scorer, Cal Hunter, twice gave the home side the lead, but a first-half strike from Sam Twist coupled with O’Brien’s successfully converted spot-kick ensured Daisy collected a point from a game manager Lee Hill felt they could easily have won.

“We created good chances and could certainly have won the game,” said Hill.

“I wouldn’t say it was our best performance of the season, if it had been, I would have expected us to come away with three points.

“In the changing room after the game, I asked the lads how they all felt, and they were all bit deflated and disappointed, and that shows how far we have come as a team.

“We have turned in good performances against Steeton and Ilkley Town in our last two games, and then have come here in tough conditions, and put in another good display today.

“It’s a good end to the year for us, and the lads can be proud of themselves.

“We are slowly getting settled as a side, and we look strong and balanced and pose a threat in both boxes, and that is good to see.

“The lads are understanding how we want them to play, and it’s really positive to go into 2024 with a bit of momentum and growing confidence.”

It was the home side who enjoyed the best of the opening exchanges, and LR centre forward Hunter struck an early blow with the opening goal on six minutes, when he picked up a pass on the edge of the box, and curled a shot past Morgan Newns in the Daisy goal into the bottom left-hand corner.

But Daisy settled into the game, and at the midway point of the half Twist’s well-struck shot was met by an equally good save from LR keeper Joseph Bickerstaffe, who turned it wide for a corner.

The resulting corner was headed just wide by Ryan Talbot, and a minute later Twist turned provider with a cross that was met by the head of Jamie Ramwell, but flew wide.

The ever-threatening Hunter had a chance to add a second goal on the half-hour mark after a quick counter attack from a Daisy corner, but the striker mishit his shot.

Daisy continued to pressurise the home defence and got their reward five minutes from half time, when Twist picked up the ball wide, cut inside and buried a great strike into the bottom corner to level the scores.

In the early stages of the second half, Daisy continued to enjoy a good share of the possession, with Talbot heading over from Ben Unsworth’s cross on the hour mark, and Twist always looking a threat with some strong running.

But as the game reached the midway point of the second half, LR regained the lead, with Hunter again doing the damage, sending a cracking 25-yarder into the top corner that gave Newns in the Daisy goal no chance.

However, Daisy got a foothold back in the game 14 minutes from time, when the referee awarded a penalty for handball against an LR defender, a decision hotly disputed by the home side.

After the protests subsided, Daisy captain Jake O’Brien rifled the ball into the top left-hand corner of the net to level the scores.

As the game moved into stoppage time, Daisy could have grabbed a dramatic late winner, when Danny Warburton drilled a cross into the path of the incoming Malick Tanou, who lost his footing at the vital moment as he stretched to get a connection on the ball.

Daisy are not back in action until Monday, January 8, when they host Darwen in the North West Counties League First Division North.