It was cold on the pitch last Friday as Cowichan LMG battled Bays United in Oak Bay, but a pair of hot goalkeepers ended up making all the difference.
Both teams, who are battling for third place in the Vancouver Island Soccer League’s top division, created quality scoring opportunities, but the goalies made the difference in what ended up being a 1-1 draw.
Bays created many of their opportunities in the early going, but Cowichan’s Darian Achurch was up to the challenge, and his team managed to open the scoring on a diving header by Craig [Scoreman] Gorman in the 23rd minute.
“Obviously getting the first goal in any match at this level is crucial,” Cowichan head coach Glen Martin remarked. “We have scored the opening goal in 14 of our 16 games this season, but our difficulty has come in keeping that lead.”
That trend held up on Friday as former Cowichan star Paddy Nelson tied things with a header that deflected in off the back of a Cowichan defender, just seven minutes after Gorman’s goal. Cowichan took control again after halftime, but Bays’ keeper continued to stymie the visitors.
“It was frustrating for sure,” Cowichan forward Blaze Roberts said. “Our depth is superior to Bays, so when both teams make changes we could dominate the game. We just couldn’t seem to put the ball away.”
Cowichan did manage to get the ball into the net on two occasions, but both goals were called back due to apparent offsides. A couple of possible hand-ball infractions by Bays inside their own penalty box went unnoticed by the officials.
LMG trails Bays by a single point in the standings, but Cowichan has two league games remaining while Bays has one. A third-place finish in the league standings would secure a provincial berth for Cowichan, who lost in last year’s provincial tournament to the eventual national champions.
League play will take a back seat this week as Cowichan kicks off the Jackson Cup tournament with a play-in game against Juan de Fuca at the Sherman Road turf on Friday at 7:30 p.m.