Daisy Hill are still searching for their first home league win of 2024 in the North West Counties League Division One North, after going down 2-0 against AFC Blackpool at the Plumb Factory Stadium on Saturday.

Two first-half goals from AFC Blackpool’s Nick Hepple and Josh Smith put them in the driving seat against a Daisy side missing several regular starters, and although the hosts created several decent chances after the break, a solid defensive display ensured the visitors picked up a hard-fought win.

Despite the defeat, Daisy manager Lee Hill emphasised after the game he did not want to be too harsh on his players.

“I don’t want to make excuses, but we had a much-changed side and it’s always difficult when you are missing five or six key players,” said Hill.

“I’m not going to apportion blame on any of the players, it’s my job to put the best team out I felt could do the job, but it didn’t work out as we’d hoped and I take the blame for the result as I set the team up.

“I thought they (AFC Blackpool) were good for the win. They bullied us in certain moments, showed a bit more character than we did at times, and played the windy conditions well, especially in the first half.

“The second goal on the stroke of half time knocked the stuffing out of us a bit, and they then defended the lead well in the second half against the wind.

“We lacked a cutting edge in the final third, but if one of the chances we created in the second half had gone in, it could have been different.

“I have to give credit to Ben Taylor and Basit Yusuff, two young lads who we only signed on loan on the morning of the game. They obviously weren’t used to our style of play, but I thought they came in and did well.

“All of the lads never lacked effort, but there are some games where it just doesn’t work out for you, and that was the case today.”

The opening 25 minutes were evenly-matched, with neither side creating a chance of note until a well-struck long-range free-kick from AFC Blackpool’s Nick Hepple narrowly missed the target.

However, two minutes later the AFC Blackpool striker opened the scoring when he was picked out with a long ball, and he cut inside the covering defender and drilled a low shot into the bottom corner.

Nick Hepple’s fellow striker, and brother, Luke Hepple, came close to adding a second when he curled a shot just wide of the far post, and a few minutes later he was in action again when Daisy keeper Morgan Newns had to move sharply to push his shot away for a corner.

However, in first-half stoppage time, the visitors doubled their advantage when a corner was swung in deep to the far post, and centre-back Smith stole in to head home from close range.

It was a bitter blow for Daisy but they began the second half well, and two minutes after the restart 16-year-old debutant Ben Taylor’s incisive pass sent Jamie Ramwell through on goal, but AFC Blackpool keeper Josh Woods made a good blocking save.

Ten minutes later Taylor came close himself, when he played a neat one-two with Harvey Roberts and rifled in a shot that Woods pushed away.

Just after the hour mark, a neat pass from Daisy’s other teenage debutant, Basit Yussuf, set up Ramwell for a shot that was deflected just wide off the foot of a defender, and as the game wore on Newns in the Daisy goal was a spectator as the home side continued to dominate possession and create chances.

Yusuff fired over from Henry Chalkley’s pass, Glenn Matthews tried his luck from all of 40 yards with a shot that sailed just over, and a Ben Unsworth header was grabbed on the goal-line by Woods as Daisy continued to apply pressure.

But the well-marshalled visitors’ defence held out to keep a clean sheet and collect all three points.

Daisy’s next game in the North West Counties League First Division North is on Saturday when they travel to face Nelson.