Phoenix look for lift in State Cup finals

TIME TO RISE: Chris Brown takes on Jets Youth striker Kale Bradbury. Picture: Max Mason-HubersSENIOR Valentine player Chris Brown believes this weekend’s trip to Coffs Harbour for the State Cup finals is just what Phoenix need before they try to rescue their place in the Northern NSW State League.

Valentine, the inaugural winners of the State Cup in 2010, will represent the southern pool in the annual knockout along with fellow State League side Edgeworth and lower-division qualifiers Dudley-Redhead and Swansea today in the quarter-finals at BCU International Stadium.

Phoenix play Lismore Workers today for a place in tomorrow’s semi-finals.

Edgeworth play Coffs City, Dudley-Redhead take on Urunga and Swansea clash with Lennox Head. The winners of the semi-finals then play off for the $4000 first prize.

Valentine head to Coffs Harbour fresh from securing their first point under new coaches Alan Hackett and Ian Brogan.

The Central Coast pair took over from the axed Lindsay Tapp last month and had two losses before Phoenix came back from 2-0 down to draw 2-all with the Jaffas on Wednesday night at Edden Oval.

Nick Hills and Craig Wieckowski scored in the second half to move last-placed Valentine to eight points from 14 games.

They are two points behind next best Lake Macquarie, who have two games in hand.

Brown, who is in his third season at Valentine, said the trip away was perfect timing for Phoenix as they look to charge home late to avoid relegation.

“I don’t think it could have come a better time,” the 26-year-old Scotsman said.

“With the new coaches coming in, it’s a bit of a morale booster. It is a good chance to get to know the new coaches and for them to know us, off the park as well.

“I think it’s a good chance to build that team morale for the rest of the season.”

A product of the Dundee youth system, Brown played at South Cardiff when he came to Australia then Edgeworth, Broadmeadow and Toronto Awaba before joining Phoenix.

The well-travelled left midfielder or left fullback has seen plenty of changes at football clubs and believes the Phoenix players have handled the recent upheaval “very well”.

“We are all very open and honest and we get on well together on and off the park.

“We’ve just got to roll with the punches and try and save ourselves from relegation.

“There was a bit of shock, but when the results don’t go your way, the manager is the first one in the firing line, I guess, across the board in all levels of football.”

He said communication between players and coaches and intensity levels at training had improved since Brogan and Hackett had come on board.

“It’s been a bit of a revitalisation, I think, with the new coaches,” he said.

“Players want to impress them and there’s a bit more competition for places.

“They have different ideas to what Lindsay had.”

The State Cup presents Valentine with their only chance of winning a first-grade trophy this year.

“Winning silverware is why we all play so we’re not going to go up there half-hearted,” Brown said.