With his team in a scoreless tie midway through Friday’s Vancouver Island Soccer League game at Williams Turf on Sherman Road, Cowichan LMG head coach Glen Martin was searching for a spark.
He looked down his short bench — with three spares, actually the longest bench the team has had for a game this season — and spotted Jordan de Graaf.
“It all broke loose when we got Jordan de Graaf in at the start of the second half,” Martin said.
Usually a starter, de Graaf had been held out of the first half of Friday’s game against Lakehill after missing the previous week’s game and six training sessions for work reasons. Not as punishment, just following Martin’s policy of rewarding players who make it out to every practice.
Finally unleashed in the second half, the speedy and energetic de Graaf provided exactly the spark Martin was looking for, combining with Paddy Nelson to score five of the team’s goals in a slump-busting 6-1 win.
“Him and Paddy were connecting well in the second half,” Martin said.
De Graaf scored his first two goals of the season and had a direct assist on the second of Nelson’s three goals. Craig Gorman also scored in the rout.
“It was good to see de Graaf come off the bench and score a couple of goals,” Martin said. “I didn’t expect two goals and an assist from him, but I did expect him to put on some pressure in their zone. That’s the kind of player he is; he’s exciting. He’s had some bad luck. Hopefully this gets him going.”
De Graaf opened the scoring in the 57th minute, not long after coming into the game, and Nelson added his first of the evening two minutes later. Cowichan gave up a bad goal on a defensive breakdown at 61 minutes, giving Lakehill a brief opportunity to get back in the game, but managed to regain the momentum.
De Graaf set up Nelson’s second of the game at 75 minutes, Gorman scored in the 77th minute, de Graaf scored another one at 84 minutes, and Nelson capped off his hat trick at 87 minutes. The six goals were the most the team has scored in a game this year.
“We probably had 10 chances, and six went in,” Martin said. “They could have had some more goals, too. It could have been a 9-3 game.”
Keep in mind, all the scoring for both teams came in the second half. Cowichan was the better team in the first half, but just couldn’t convert.
“We had a lot of possession and a few chances to score, but nothing too great,” Martin said.
Nelson’s outburst gives him six goals on the season to lead the Div. 1 scoring race, which he won handily last season with 27 in 18 games.
As a team, Cowichan is now 3-1, having put together three straight wins after dropping their season opener. They sit fourth in Div. 1, four points out of first with a game in hand on league-leading Gorge FC.
Having sparked their offence in Friday’s game, Cowichan now needs to concentrate on their own end of the field, Martin suggested. Cowichan’s 12 goals are the second-most in the league, but the team has allowed six in four games, nothing to panic about, but still a number Martin would like to improve on.
“We’re a fairly offensive club,” he noted. “We’ve started scoring some goals. Now we’ve got to tighten up on defence.”
LMG heads north this Saturday to visit Nanaimo United at Merle Logan Park at 7 p.m. Last year, Cowichan won 3-2 when they played in Nanaimo, and Martin is preparing for another close contest.
“They’re always hard games in Nanaimo,” he said. “Generally Nanaimo is a very tough team. They’re doing alright; they’re right behind us in the league.”