A late goal by Stu Barker and more shutout goalkeeping by Darian Achurch gave the Cowichan 49ers a 1-0 win over Gorge FC at the Sherman Road turf on Saturday evening.
Barker scored his O35 division-leading eighth goal of the year in the 70th minute as the injury-plagued 49ers held off Gorge. Jesse Winter earned The Chain as the 49ers Man of the Match with another standout performance on the backline.
Brad Thorne made his season debut with the 49ers after transferring over from Cowichan’s Div. 4 team. He started on the front lines in place of Neall Rowlings, who had surgery on his thumb following the Cowichan Derby against the Steelheads on Nov. 6.
Rowlings has also been coaching the 49ers this season, but has had some of those responsibilities alleviated in recent weeks as head coach Kevin James has been easing back into the job during his own recovery from back surgery.
Still in first place, with seven wins, one draw and one loss, the Niners have a four-point lead on second-place Vic West. Vic West is also the only team to have beaten Cowichan this year, and the 49ers will face them in their next home game. As excited as they are for that matchup, they can’t look past this weekend’s road game against Fernwood, a strong team they only beat 1-0 last time they met.
“The league has a ton of parity and it’s fun,” Rowlings said.
Following the 49ers’ game, the Cowichan Steelheads played their first game in three weeks, losing 4-2 to Juan de Fuca Pacific at the Sherman Road turf. Travis Brown scored his team-leading sixth of the season, with Cowichan’s other goal coming on an own-goal by JDF.
The defeat was the fifth-straight for the Steelheads who sit seventh in the O35 division and will visit UVic Alumni this Friday night.