Namoi United lined up at the 2024 Johnson Cup gala day tournament in Tamworth on Saturday and narrowly missed out on a semi-final spot after placing second in their pool.

Northern NSW Football Northern Inland’s annual event attracted 12 teams this year, with Namoi United being grouped with Northern Inland Premier League opponents Tamworth FC, East Armidale United FC and Moore Creek FC Orange in pool A.

The combined Narrabri, Wee Waa and Moree outfit were missing several players who are expected to be first grade regulars this year but they still managed to kick off the tournament with a victory. They took on Tamworth FC in their opening game and earned a 1-0 win as a Mark Rottger goal secured them the three points.

Namoi United’s brilliant defensive resolve was on show once again in the second game against East Armidale United FC as the two sides held each other scoreless in a nil-all draw.

Moore Creek were also undefeated at that stage after they won their first two games 4-1 against East Armidale and 1-0 against Tamworth FC, and results in the other pools meant that Namoi United would not have earned enough points to be the sole second-placed team to progress through to the final four, so they required a win in their round three match against Moore Creek Orange. But the Mountain Goats got the job done 3-0 to top the table and progress to the finals as Namoi United settled for second and their day came to an early end.

Inverell FC topped pool B and North Companions took out pool C, and Moore Creek Black, which played in pool C, finished as the highest-ranked second-placed team, which saw them join the trio of pool winners in the semi-finals.

Inverell then downed Moore Creek Black 4-0 in their semi-final and Namoi United’s pool A opponents Moore Creek Orange won their semi-final 1-0 against North Companions, which saw them advance to the grand final. It was Inverell who got the job done with a dominant 3-0 victory in the decider to complete a cup double for the club as they also won the women’s division.

Namoi United coach Neil Brayshaw told The Courier that he thought that the annual tournament was well-run and provided his squad with a great opportunity to gel as the Narrabri, Wee Waa and Moree-based players continue preparations for a return to the Northern Inland Premier League competition for the first time since 2016.

“The day was a big plus for us. Everyone wants to be around one another and we are all gelling well,” Brayshaw said.

“A day like that gives you insight into where you’ve got to improve. It’s a step up, particularly our last game against Moore Creek Orange. They were intense and physical and pretty clinical.

“We improved as the day went on, I thought. We’re still a bit disjointed and we’re trying to gel with the three teams coming together, but it was also brought about by a lot of experienced players not being there.

“I thought we did well. One win, one draw and one loss and we ended up second in our pool. I was very pleased with how we went.

“There’s still a lot to work on but everyone is committed and we’ll keep on improving before the start of the season.”

Brayshaw said he was proud of the efforts of all Namoi United players who travelled to Tamworth to play on Saturday, and he was particularly impressed with the side’s defence as they kept clean sheets in two of their three games.

The 2024 Northern Inland Premier League competition will kick off on Saturday, April 6, but Namoi United have the bye in round one and they will hold a social golf day to continue their bonding as a new group. Their campaign will begin a week later when they travel to Tamworth to challenge South United Lightning FC in round two.

The joint Narrabri, Wee Waa and Moree team’s first home game will be played in round three when they host Inverell at the Moree Services Field, and they will then play their next four matches in Narrabri.

Namoi United will play 13 of their 18 games across the 20-round season at Hogan Oval this year, with two to be played in Tamworth, two to be played in Armidale and one to be played in Moree after Northern NSW Football constructed the draw to ensure that every team in the competition would have close to the same amount of travel to do during the season.

To order photos from this page click here