In all his years of coaching, Cowichan LMG head coach Glen Martin had never seen a game quite like his team’s 4-3 victory over Saanich Fusion last Friday night.
“It was definitely different,” he said. “Just when you think you’ve seen it all, you learn you haven’t.”
The game was Cowichan’s closest result of the Vancouver Island Soccer League Div. 1 season last Friday, but early on, it didn’t look that way, as Cowichan dominated from the start.
“We were pressing high, exactly how we talked about in practice,” Martin recalled.
Just 11 minutes in, Kevan Brown opened the scoring, heading in a cross from Tyler Hughes. Paddy Nelson, who along with Cooper Barry, came over to Cowichan from Saanich on the off-season, scored his league-leading ninth goal later in the first half to put Cowichan up by two.
Saanich scored what Martin acknowledged was a bad goal in the 44th minute, but Brad Thorne replied out of a scramble in front of the net before the half was over and Cowichan led 3-1. “Everybody was feeling good,” Martin said. “We were out-playing them, no question.” Barry scored in the 49th minute and Cowichan held a solid 4-1 edge before falling into a bit of a lull.
“We stopped moving a bit,” Martin said. “You can’t keep that kind of pace going the whole game.”
With 10 minutes to go in the game, Brown got run over, and while the culprit was issued a red card, dropping Saanich down to 10 players, the referee wouldn’t let Brown back on the pitch while play was on, which evened the numbers and left Cowichan without their centre back for a spell. Saanich took advantage of the confusion and made it 4-2.
The way things were developing left Cowichan goalkeeper Joel Wilson upset, and when he got bumped during a play, he uttered an expletive at an unfortunate moment when the crowd had quieted momentarily. The ref, who was keeping his eye on Wilson, quickly gave him a red card and awarded Saanich a penalty shot. With an unprepared Dan Citra rushed in to replace Wilson in goal, Saanich easily capitalized on the penalty shot and got within a goal.
When play resumed, Barry took the ball at centre and dribbled into the corner just in time for the final whistle.
“It felt so strange,” Martin said. “I should have been so happy [to win], but I was mad. It was such a good night for the fans and for the game, and the referee decides to put his stamp on it.”
With six wins in six games, Cowichan sits first in Div. 1, their 18 points seven more than second-place Saanich. In addition to Nelson leading the league in scoring with nine goals, Barry is tied for second with Hughes’s brother, Jordie (of Bays United), and former Cowichan sniper Ryan Andre. Brown and Dan Cato are also in the top 10 with three apiece.
Andre will be in town this Friday, along with fellow former Cowichan player Matt Arnett, as Cowichan hosts Nanaimo FC, beginning at 7:30 p.m.