Namoi United embarked on their first Armidale trip in the 2024 Northern Inland Premier League competition on Saturday, and it was a similar story for them at Rologas Sporting Fields where they narrowly went down 3-2 in first grade against the defending champions South Armidale United.

The combined Narrabri/Wee Waa/Moree side battled hard in the round nine clash on a wet and slippery pitch and again felt as though they deserved a point after going down by the same scoreline to the Northern Conference leaders, Armidale City Westside FC, at Hogan Oval a week earlier. However, they were forced to return home without any points after the hosts held on to earn all three on offer.

South Armidale United went into half-time ahead 2-0 after finding the back of the net twice in the opening 45 minutes, and they then tripled that advantage early in the second stanza.

The Namoi United men refused to go down without a fight and pulled one back midway through the half when Colby Williams found the back of the net. Williams, who had played a full game of reserve grade and entered the first grade game in the 15th minute when Matt Hamblin left the field with a shoulder injury, pounced on a loose ball inside the 18-yard box after a Ray Nixon shot was saved, and he slotted his shot between two retreating South Armidale United defenders.

Cooper Brayshaw then netted his third goal in three weeks with about 15 minutes to go to make the score 3-2. Williams had a hand in that goal as he got down the left edge and played the ball inside to David Avery, who laid the ball back to Brayshaw before the midfielder reduced the away side’s deficit to one with his fourth goal of the campaign.

Namoi United had two significant chances to equalise late in the contest as Nixon won a penalty but had his spot kick saved and then centre back Nathan Trindall flew onto a Brayshaw corner kick but had his header from point blank range brilliantly saved as the hosts held on to prevail 3-2.

The combined Narrabri/Wee Waa/Moree team have so far proved that they belong in the NIPL competition in their first year back playing among the Tamworth and Armidale teams, with two wins and a draw to their name and three of their four losses being by just one goal. But despite playing some quality football across the first two months, there is room for improvement at both ends of the field as they are still yet to keep a clean sheet and have squandered plenty of chances as well.

Coach Neil Brayshaw gave the side the week off training this week ahead of King’s Birthday long weekend break, and they are ready to ramp things up when they return to the paddock next week as they look to end the first half of the season on a high when they head back over to Armidale to take on the undefeated Demon Knights in round 10 on June 15.

Namoi United are currently fourth on the Southern Conference ladder with seven points.

Moore Creek lead the way with 19 points following six wins, a draw and a loss after they demolished the struggling East Armidale United 22-1 in round nine, and Oxley Vale Attunga are second with 16 points following their bye on Saturday. Ranked third are North Companions with 10 points after they went down 2-1 against Armidale City Westside in round nine. Namoi United are still a win behind Northies with a game in hand.

Hillvue Rovers (6), Tamworth FC (6) and South United (4) are ranked fifth to seventh on the Southern Conference ladder, respectively, after their games were washed out in round nine. South United and Tamworth FC were scheduled to meet one another and Hillvue were scheduled to host Demon Knights.

Armidale City Westside still lead the Northern Conference and they are now on 22 points following their round nine win. They are undefeated following seven wins and a draw so far this season. Fellow undefeated outfit Demon Knights are second with 17 points, while third-placed Inverell, who beat Norths United 6-1 in round nine, are a win back on 14 points.

South Armidale (9), Norths United (3) and East Armidale (0) are ranked fourth to sixth, respectively.

In the reserve grade game at Rologas Sporting Fields on Saturday, Namoi United went down 2-1 against South Armidale United.

Connor Hill scored the visitors’ lone goal in the second stanza to make the score 1-all after the hosts led 1-0 at half-time, but the visitors conceded again and lost by a one-goal margin.

Meanwhile, the round seven Namoi Soccer League games at Hogan Oval on Saturday were washed out. Wee Waa and Narrabri Eleven FC will meet in a rescheduled round four match on Thursday night at Hogan Oval.

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