Namoi United continued to prove that they are not simply making up the numbers in the Northern Inland Premier League competition this year after scoring a 2-1 first grade victory against Tamworth-based club North Companions in round seven at Hogan Oval on Saturday.

The hosts struck first in the 22nd minute when a deflected strike fell to David Avery, who scored his fourth goal in as many appearances this year when he guided his shot between two retreating defenders on the goal line.

North Companions equalised in the 35th minute directly from a corner and the score remained 1-1 until the 73rd minute when Cooper Brayshaw put Namoi United back in front when he too scored directly from a corner kick.

That made it 2-1, which was the way it remained when the full-time whistle blew as Namoi United clawed themselves closer to their Southern Conference rivals.

The combined Narrabri/Wee Waa/Moree team are now on seven points, a win behind North Companions (10) with a game in hand on them, and two wins behind Oxley Vale Attunga (13) with two games in hand on them. Moore Creek (16) are leading the Southern Conference ladder but have also played two more games than the Namoi side.

Namoi United coach Neil Brayshaw told The Courier his team are getting better each week.

“It’s probably the best game they’ve played all year,” Brayshaw said of his side.

“It was our best start too. We were composed on the ball and we were physical in challenges.

“It was good to see we are starting to use the whole space of the oval. We knocked the ball around really well, especially in the second half.

“I think our defence was top-class too. Our four backs stayed on the field all game. I never had to replace them.

“We’re still lapsing in both halves for about a five to 10-minute period where we go away from our game plan in our passing and defence, but we’re continuing to gel really well as a team.

“There’s still a lot of improvement to come, but I couldn’t be prouder of where we are at the moment.

“Our aim is to make the top three. We’re not just here to fill the numbers. We have a good bunch of lads and we don’t want to settle for being middle of the table. We want to give it a shot.”

Namoi United were playing just the second match in their new formation, and Brayshaw thought it was having a positive impact.

“It really seems to suit the players we’ve got,” he said.

“When (North Companions) were on the counter, they didn’t come through us down the middle today. They found a bit of space, but they couldn’t just go right through us.

“Matt Hamblin was holding in the midfield and did really well in the centre. The way he plays gives our other midfielders time to get back in there.”

Namoi United created a huge early chance in the eighth minute but Jake Brayshaw was denied by the woodwork after his run down the left edge was spotted by his brother Cooper, who played a precise diagonal pass into his path. The winger charged into the box and was one-on-one with the keeper before firing a strike that hit the left upright and bounced away for a goal kick.

The hosts opened the scoring in the 22nd minute and it came from nothing as a rather innocuous Rowan Keeler defensive clearance made it all the way to striker Ray Nixon, who found himself alone with three North Companions defenders around him but controlled the ball in the front third until Jake Brayshaw arrived. He squared a pass to the unmarked winger whose shot was blocked by the goalkeeper before the ball fell to Avery who slotted it between two defenders on the goal line into the back of the net to make the score 1-0.

There was 10 minutes left to play in the first half when North Companions equalised as a left-footed Tomas VanRiet corner kick from the right curled over everyone and landed in the net just inside the left post as the score became 1-all, which was the way it remained at half-time.

Jake Brayshaw continued to cause North Companions headaches down the left and he went close to putting Namoi United back in front in the 61st minute when he charged onto an Avery through ball into the box and slipped a shot past the goalkeeper, only for it to be cleared off the line by a North Companions defender.

Namoi United eventually did go in front in the 73rd minute when an Avery cross was cleared out for a corner kick, which Cooper Brayshaw curled in from the left in between the defender on the near stick and the goalkeeper and into the back of the net to make the score 2-1.

The away side’s task at hand got even trickier with 10 minutes to go when they were reduced to 10 men following a red card, and 2-1 was the way it remained when the full-time whistle sounded.

The other round seven winners on Saturday were Moore Creek, Demon Knights and Hillvue Rovers. Moore Creek downed Inverell 5-2, Demon Knights defeated Oxley Vale Attunga 2-1, and Hillvue scored their first win of the year when they beat South United 3-2. The matches between Armidale City Westside and East Armidale United, and Norths United and Tamworth FC scheduled to be played in Armidale were both called off due to dangerous conditions caused by lightning.

In reserve grade on Saturday, Namoi United lost their round seven game at Hogan Oval 1-0.

The combined Narrabri/Wee Waa/Moree outfit will play another home game at Hogan Oval this Saturday in round eight when they host Northern Conference ladder leaders Armidale City Westside, who are one of just two undefeated teams in the first grade competition.

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