Cheko Soto of the Steelheads (99) moves to defend against Tyler Hughes of the 49ers during last Friday’s Cowichan Derby at the Sherman Road turf. (Kevin Rothbauer/Citizen)

49ers edge Steelheads in defensive Derby duel

Goalkeepers steal the show in all-Cowichan battle

Goalkeepers Chris Muller and Preston Johnny battled to a near-standstill last Saturday as the Cowichan 49ers edged the Cowichan Steelheads 1-0 in the latest chapter of the Cowichan Derby.

Tyler Hughes scored the lone goal for the 49ers in a tight contest between the Valley’s two over-35 men’s soccer teams at the Sherman Road turf.

While Muller earned the clean sheet, both Neall Rowlings of the 49ers and Curtis Flynn of the Steelheads heaped praise on the play of the Steelheads’ keeper.

“Preston Johnny played unbelievable,” Rowlings gushed. “We hit two posts, but the Steelheads definitely had their chances too.”

“Preston was definitely a standout,” Flynn echoed.

Despite plenty of talk by both teams about who had been issued more yellow and red cards this season, neither team had to be disciplined during the match.

Hughes’s goal came on a bullet from outside in the 68th minute.

The Steelheads have really come together this season, and sit fourth in the masters A division with a chance to rise even higher. The Steelheads may not be a collection of all-stars, but they’ve truly gelled as a team, Flynn insisted.

“We know we aren’t the most skilled,” he said. “We aren’t the most talented. We haven’t always been the most liked. We can’t score and we are slow. We definitely aren’t the most sportsmanlike — although I may have something to do with that. We do have heart. More heart than any other group I have ever been a part of.

“These guys literally fed a teammate for a month after he broke his leg. Some of these guys have not only beaten cancer but some are actually kicking cancer’s ass right now. All while still showing up to training and dominating. This group has the most amazing camaraderie.”

The Steelers and 49ers will meet again for the third round of the Cowichan Derby in a play-in game for the Tony Grover Cup tournament on Feb. 15, and both teams are excited for another chance to square off.

“We are all very aware the next game in three weeks is going to be a cup battle to remember,” Rowlings said.

This weekend, the 49ers will host the Bobcats on Saturday at 6 p.m., while the Steelheads travel to Saanich.

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