Unbeaten sides to battle in North war

THE NORTHERN Inland Premier League will see two undefeated sides play in the first conference crossover round of the season.

Southern Conference leaders North Companions will host last season’s semi-finalists North Armidale at Marius Street today.

Despite scoring 17 goals in the first three rounds, Companions coach Gavin Thompson said he was happy with the wins but not the performance.

The Redmen on the other hand have had the bye, a one-all draw with Demon Knights  and a tight 1-nil win over rivals South Armidale.

Stand-in coach Neil Wheaton is expecting a strong, fast and physical match-up.

Companions found the back of the net nine times against Gunnedah United last round, although have lost some key players for this match.

Striker Cameron Hyde has done a knee and will be out for at least half the season, while 16-year-old David Ifield is on a school excursion and will leave a hole at the back.

“We are going to have to step it up and dominate possession this week,” Thompson said.

“Everything is in place – we just haven’t clicked yet and taken our opportunities.”

Northies are going to have to watch their defence, with the likes of Jason Boundy in the midfield and Willow Grieves up front for the Redmen.

“We won’t be able to give them any room,” Thompson said.

“They are pretty good on the ball.”

15-year-old Matt Kelly has retained his spot up front for Companions and will be the target for the midfielders and wingers to hit in front of goal.

As usual, captain Ben Todd will direct the team from the middle, alongside the creative Will Camm.

North Armidale is looking forward to the challenge of playing the top-ranked Southern side.

“It is good to play them early in the season to see how we stand,” Wheaton said.

“Both sides like to knock it around so it should be a good match.”

Despite the 17 goals the opposition has scored, the Redmen are going in with their usual 4-3-3, and hoping their strong back four, led by Andrew McCann, will hold them out.

“We have been looking good but our finishing has let us down a bit,” Wheaton said.

“To win, we all have to play well and execute a bit better.”

“It is going to be tight and tough and a good benchmark for the season.”

In reserve grade, the Redmen will be out for revenge after going down to Companions in last year’s grand final.

In other games this weekend, South Armidale will host Moree, while Guyra will have a tough day at home against an OVA side on a roll after upsetting premiers Tamworth FC 1-0 last game.

Gunnedah will host two games this weekend as East Armidale will play the Hawks at Kitchener Park and DK will play United at Wolseley Park.

Demon Knights will host the Narrabri-Wee Waa combined side and Tamworth FC will have the bye.

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