A strong game by Cowichan LMG wasn’t enough as the team failed to put Nanaimo United away and had to settle for a 1-1 tie after a late goal by a former teammate.
Cowichan head coach Glen Martin admitted he wasn’t surprised by the result based on how his Vancouver Island Soccer League team has performed traditionally against its up-island rivals.
"With our recent history, it kind of went exactly as I thought it would go," he said.
Cowichan went ahead 1-0 around the 35-minute mark when Steve Scott finished off a give-and-go with Paddy Nelson.
"Steve Scott does very well against Nanaimo," Martin noted.
The team was comfortable carrying a 1-0 lead into halftime. "That put us in a good position," Martin said. "We looked like the better team overall. We were strong defensively."
Cowichan started the second half well. With Nanaimo pressing, Cowichan just sat back and waited for chances to counterattack. Unfortunately, they didn’t capitalize on their opportunities. Nelson, in particular, was prevented from scoring by a combination of bad luck and bad decisions.
"We had about five good chances to make it 2-0, but we just didn’t do it," Martin said. "That comes back to haunt you."
The team ended up paying for it when former Cowichan player
Matt Arnett took the ball and blazed down the field – "like a man possessed," in Martin’s words – to score in the 88th minute, leaving Cowichan without enough time to regain the lead.
Another former Cowichan player, Ryan Andre, who sits second in league scoring behind Nelson, was held without a goal in the contest.
Martin saw shades of his team’s result in the NFC championship game the next day.
"We didn’t put them away," he said. "It was like Green Bay and Seattle."
Regardless of the result, Martin was pleased with his team’s performance.
"I was happy with how we played," he said. "We’re going in the right direction. Team defence first, scoring the first goal; it was unlucky we didn’t finish the game off with a counterattack."
Martin’s team was also missing a handful of key starters in Dan Cato, Stu Barker, Cooper Barry and captain Jesse Winter, but he didn’t blame the result on that.
"We were a little thin on the bench but the guys worked really hard," the coach said.
Connor Crichton was picked as Cowichan’s MVP for the match.
Cowichan has one win, three ties and a loss over their last five games. Prior to that, the team had won 10 straight games. Nonetheless, the team can clinch the league with a win over Gorge this Saturday at the Ladysmith turf at 7 p.m.