With 15 goals in the first 10 games of the Vancouver Island Soccer League season, it was inevitable that Paddy Nelson would set a new scoring record for the Cowichan Div. 1 men’s team.
Exactly how dramatic the record 16th goal would be, no one could have guessed.
Nelson waited until the 92nd minute of last Saturday’s road game against Comox Valley United to score his 16th goal, breaking a scoreless tie while knocking Ryan Andre out of the record books.
The goal was Nelson’s fourth game-winner of the season as well.
“It happened to be his biggest one so far,” Cowichan head coach Glen Martin said.
Martin knew what he was getting when Nelson signed on with Cowichan at the beginning of last season: a productive striker who makes his goals count.
“He’s a goal-scorer,” Martin said. “That’s what they like to do. But he’s a different kind of scorer. Some guys score the eighth, ninth, 10th game of a blowout. He scores clutch goals.”
Although it was just a one-goal game, Cowichan dominated play as Comox — who dropped in the standings from second to fourth with the loss — appeared content to play for a tie.
“If you didn’t know the two teams, you would have thought they were the away team,” Martin said. “They played very defensively. I think their game plan was a 0-0 draw right from the start. Our game plan was to go right at them.”
Playing in his first game for Cowichan this season, Craig Gorman nearly opened the scoring early on, but his shot ricocheted off the post.
As much as Cowichan dominated play, Comox’s commitment to defence made things very difficult.
“We got behind them a few times, but there wasn’t a lot of room,” Martin said. “They had a lot of guys back.”
Comox’s game plan was working as no one had scored through 45 minutes.
“I think they were very happy with 0-0 at halftime,” Martin said.
It wasn’t until injury time that Cowichan finally solved the Comox defence. Second-half sub A.J. Kambere sent a cross to Nelson, who found the back of the net even though he was well covered by Comox players.
In goal, Sam Hutchison earned his seventh clean sheet of the campaign.
“It was such a team effort,” Martin said.
The team effort extended beyond that as players were willing to play outside of their usual positions to give Cowichan a chance to win. After defender Brad Archibald was hurt in the 40th minute, Govinda Innes filled in for him. With defensive stalwart Tyler Hughes out of the lineup, Cooper Barry, the No. 2 leading scorer in Div. 1 behind Nelson, played the whole game at centre back.
It certainly didn’t hurt that Cowichan took a deep batch of players north.
“We didn’t travel light,” Martin said. “We went up with 15 guys. Going there with quality players on the bench paid off.”
With a record of nine wins, no losses and two ties, LMG is now seven points up on second-place Nanaimo with seven games left in the VISL season.
LMG had been scheduled to play their next game at the new artificial turf on Sherman Road, but due to issues with the lights, the game will be played at the Ladysmith turf.
All other details are the same: Saturday at 6 p.m. against the VI Wave.
The Wave are currently eighth in the league, and Cowichan beat them 6-0 last time they met, but Martin expects it to be closer this time.
“They’ve been playing quite well lately,” he said. “They’ve had good results, and even their losses have been tight. They’re young guys, getting the feel of the league.”