LMG’s Paddy Nelson beats Vic West’s keeper to the ball Friday night. (Kevin Rothbauer/Citizen)

LMG’s Paddy Nelson beats Vic West’s keeper to the ball Friday night. (Kevin Rothbauer/Citizen)

Solid goalkeeping keeps LMG ahead of Vic West

Darian Achurch’s third clean shutout of the season backstopped Cowichan LMG to a 1-0 victory over Vic West at the Sherman Road turf on Friday, putting the team comfortably in first place in Div. 1 at the halfway point of the Vancouver Island Soccer League season.

Achurch was getting plenty of praise from LMG head coach Glen Martin, not only for his play last Friday, but for the way he has performed all season.

“Look at last year, we lost 5-2 to the same team,” Martin pointed out. “This year, we lost 1-0. Darian’s good. He deserves credit.”

In four games against the teams ranked second through fifth in Div. 1, Achurch has allowed a single goal to Lakehill, shutting down Nanaimo, Gorge and Vic West.

“When Darian gets a clean sheet, he gets it against the big boys,” Martin said.

From Achurch up through the defence and midfield and forward lines, everything was clicking against Vic West.

“It was a really good team effort, Martin said. “The guys are playing pretty well together. That’s a benefit of having low numbers. They’re playing with each other game after game after game, and it’s working out pretty good so far.”

Cooper Barry scored the lone goal of the match in the first half.

Paddy Nelson had numerous chances to add a second, including a breakaway, and a blind shot off his heel that hit the crossbar, but nothing was going in, leaving him at 11 goals, tied for second in the league scoring race.

“Unfortunately, Paddy didn’t get the second goal,” Martin said. “One of those goals puts them away. We didn’t finish them off, but we didn’t give the game away, either.”

In the last three matches before the halfway point, Cowichan claimed seven of nine points against Bays, Gorge and Vic West in the last three games leading up to the halfway point of the season. The team finishes the half with 22 points, and Martin points out that last year, 39 won the league.

He also points out, however, that LMG has averaged more than 22 points in the first half of the last nine seasons, losing only seven out of 81 first-half games over that span.

Things tend to change in the second half, though.

“Every team is going to improve a bit in the second half of the season, so we have to, too,” Martin said.

Cowichan will get an infusion of four or five players on the weekend of Nov. 17, once Vancouver Island University’s season is over.

“They’re going to help us in the long run,” Martin said. “We can’t continue with a small roster. Even just training and stuff, it makes a difference. Competing for starting spots makes a difference. I want guys to push each other to start. Right now, we don’t have that.”

The VIU Mariners are hosting the CCAA national championships this Wednesday through Saturday, and Martin believes that experience will help the players who will be joining his team.

“I think VIU will do well this week,” he said. “That will give the guys confidence.”

In the meantime, Cowichan will visit Westcastle at Westhills Stadium this Saturday. Westcastle sits sixth in Div. 1, still in contention for one of the top spots.

“They’ve done well,” Martin commented. “We beat them in our first game, 5-1, but they’ve done well since then. They’re a good, young team. We’ve got to be ready.”

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