Around the 25-minute mark of Cowichan LMG’s game against Bays United at Oak Bay High School last Friday, the team was awarded a penalty kick. Although Cowichan appeared to score on the play, the referee waved it off.
Under those circumstances, some teams might have folded in dismay, but Cowichan’s spirits were buoyed.
“The guys realized we could play with them,” Cowichan coach Ryan Flynn said. “That disallowed goal, as much as it meant nothing in the game, it gave the guys some confidence. You could just feel the air in the guys get higher as soon as that goal goes in. You could tell they realized that game was within our grasp.”
About six minutes later, Cowichan captain Colin Knight scored his first goal of the season, spurring the team to a 3-1 victory over a strong team in the Vancouver Island Soccer League’s top division. Coming a week after a 2-2 draw against a struggling Powell River side, the win showed what Cowichan is truly capable of.
“It was a night-and-day game from last week to this week,” Flynn said. “Everyone put that away on the back burner. It was a new day, a new week.”
Cowichan’s previous match with Bays, back in early November, had ended in a scoreless draw, but they went in with more determination this time around.
“Last time we played them, they didn’t have a couple of their better players, so we thought it would be an easy game,” Flynn recalled. “This time our guys knew they had to put their boots on.”
The latest match was a physical test as well.
“Guys were bleeding and whatever,” Flynn said. “They played tough. They took hacks and whacks and everything else.”
Following Knight’s opening goal in the 31st minute, the teams battled for another 32 minutes before Bays tied the game with a goal from former LMG star Paddy Nelson. Henry James, who played a solid 40 minutes in the second half, put Cowichan in front for good in the 77th minute with his first Div. 1 goal.
“It was one of the better goals of the year,” Flynn said of James’s score. “The guys were pumped for him. He hit the ball from about 30 yards out right into the top corner. It was definitely a contender for goal of the year.”
Dan Citra capped off the scoring on a penalty kick in the 83rd minute, tying the injured Jordan De Graaf for the team lead with six goals on the season.
Goalkeeper Robbie Cochrane was named Cowichan’s Man of the Match for his efforts in keeping the team in the game.
“Robbie was unreal,” Flynn said. “He was making good saves and working hard. You could see his emotion. He wanted his first win with us and he earned it.”
Every player who suited up contributed, said Flynn, from offensive stalwart Blaze Roberts, who was crucial in setting up Cowichan’s first and third goals, to Alex Smith, who was called up from Div. 3 Cowichan Oak FC and got into the game late.
With five games left in the league season, Cowichan is looking to move up from fifth place, but it won’t be an easy road. Cowichan will play host to Vic West on the Sherman Road turf this Friday at 7:30 p.m. Vic West leads Cowichan by three points in the standings, and won 3-1 last time the teams met, in Victoria in November.
“We weren’t ready to play that game,” Flynn admitted. “This is definitely going to be a battle for us; they’re a technical team. Hopefully we can get a win at home. So far it seems like our road games have been more lucrative for us than our home games.”
Cowichan’s other two senior men’s teams, Div. 3 Cowichan Oak FC and the Div. 4 Cowichan Farmstore Fury, were both off last weekend. The Oak will play host to Castaways FC at the Sherman Road turf this Saturday at 4 p.m., while the Fury will visit Prospect Lake on Friday.