The Craig Street 49ers collected three vital points in the Masters A soccer standings and completed the season sweep of the UVic Alumni with a thrilling 2-1 win at the Sherman Road turf last Friday evening.
“It had it all,” head coach Kevin James said. “It was definitely an entertaining game, to say the least.”
Capitalizing on a strong start to the match, UVic converted a penalty shot to open the scoring about five minutes into the match.
“They came out fast for the first 20 minutes or so,” James said. “They put us on our heels. Eventually, they settled down, and it was a battle at both ends.”
Things changed when the teams returned to the field after the halftime break.
“The second half was completely different,” James said. “We came out strong, and so did they.”
Emotions surged as the close game progressed, and the tackling got harder.
“The guys got fired up on both sides,” James noted. “It started to get a bit chippy.”
The last 10 minutes of the match were particularly eventful, beginning with an altercation at centre. Cowichan keeper Rob McIntyre got involved and was issued a red card. He was replaced in goal by Chad Bastion as the 49ers went down to 10 men.
They still ended up tying the game while shorthanded. UVic cleared the ball off the line, but Cowichan recovered. The initial shot hit the post, but Brad Peterson — the 49ers eventual Man of the Match — buried the rebound.
With about five minutes left, a UVic player inadvertently kicked a Cowichan player in the head and received his second yellow card of the match, putting UVic down to 10 men.
With the teams back at even strength, George Thomas, who was playing his first league game of the season after serving a suspension that dated back to last year, scored on a free kick to put his team ahead. The 49ers held on for the last couple of minutes until the whistle blew.
“It was an absolute battle,” a relieved James said. “Those three points were crucial.”
More than half a dozen players were missing from the Cowichan lineup on Friday, including some key starters. Still, after trailing most of the game and going down a man in the late going, they dug deep and salvaged the win.
“It shows the depth of our team,” James said. “The guys didn’t quit. They just rolled up their sleeves and played Cowichan soccer.”
The 49ers sit atop the Vancouver Island Soccer League masters standings with a 4-1 record, just ahead of 3-1 Gorge. Gorge is the only Masters A team Cowichan still has to play, in a game that has been rescheduled for December.
The Masters A teams now begin a crossover schedule with Masters B, beginning this weekend when Cowichan visits Castaways on Sunday at noon. The A and B designations don’t signify that much, James cautioned.
“There are teams in B that should be in A,” he said. “There are no gimmes. The top four teams can take points away from any of the A teams if they don’t show up to play.”
The Masters B Cowichan Steelheads had last weekend off, and will return to action this Saturday at home to Lakehill Monkey Tree at 6 p.m. on Saturday.