Phoenix, Lakes look to kick-start season

ONE end of Cahill Oval will be must-watch viewing tomorrow as Lake Macquarie and Valentine Phoenix try to kick-start their Northern NSW State League campaigns.

The Roosters, who finished second in the regular season last year, have four points after six rounds, while Phoenix are only one point better.

Both have let opportunities slip in recent weeks, highlighted last round when South Cardiff scored two late goals to beat Valentine 2-1 and Lake Macquarie fell 3-2 to Broadmeadow after conceding a second-half goal.

Both are addressing defensive problems but Phoenix are focused more on taking the chances up front.

After six rounds of an 18-week competition, it is not do-or-die yet. But Roosters coach Graham Schofield has told his side their time is running out.

‘‘Nothing less than a win is accepted this weekend,’’ Schofield said.

‘‘I’m not calling it a must-win game but as far as I’m concerned, I’m expecting the boys to do the job this weekend.

‘‘We’ve had a good word with them this week and people have spoken their mind.

‘‘We’re looking to get things corrected this weekend and be where we should be – in the top half of the table.’’

Schofield said discipline and tightening their defence were central in talks this week.

‘‘It’s just a bit of frustration that sets in with some of the players and that’s certainly been the case in the last couple of games, where we’ve thought we could get something out of them and we haven’t,’’ he said.

‘‘It’s just been a case of switching off for a second or two and you get punished.’’

Their opponents tomorrow have made changes up front after they missed two clear-cut chances to go two goals clear and put the the Gunners to bed last weekend.

Canadian Shondelle Busby has been dropped, while in-form Ethan Carusi has been pushed forward. Ben Blachan comes into midfield.

Phoenix captain Scott McGinley said his side needed to find their killer instinct.

‘‘The last few weeks we’ve let a few slip and it’s cost us at the back-end of the game,’’ McGinley said.

‘‘In the first half we’re dominating a lot of teams but just not converting chances, then they’re still in the game and coming over the top of us. ‘‘I think we’ve led the last three weeks and haven’t got a win out of them.

‘‘We just haven’t been able to hold on this year, but I think in the next couple of weeks we can put a couple of results together and get a bit of confidence going.’’

He said crunch time was quickly approaching for Phoenix in the race for the finals.

‘‘This is the time where you can still catch teams on the table before it spreads out too much,’’ he said.

‘‘It’s the time of year to get a roll on and pick up points. Every point you drop takes you further away from the finals.’’

In the first division today, Lambton Jaffas host Adamstown. Tomorrow Belmont Swansea welcome Maitland, Toronto Awaba travel to Singleton and Thornton host Cessnock.

In the Herald Women’s Premier League today at Macquarie Field, Adamstown play Valentine at 10am, Merewether take on Charlestown from midday and Lake Macquarie host Football Mid North Coast from 2pm.

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