Cowichan LMG defender Thompson Nelson rounds up the ball in his team’s end during Cowichan’s win over Nanaimo last Saturday. (Kevin Rothbauer/Citizen)

Cowichan LMG defender Thompson Nelson rounds up the ball in his team’s end during Cowichan’s win over Nanaimo last Saturday. (Kevin Rothbauer/Citizen)

Div. 3 call up sparks Cowichan LMG to win over Nanaimo

Coach calls up Connor Crichton on a ‘gut feeling’

Ryan Flynn had a hunch that Connor Crichton might be just what Cowichan LMG needed against Nanaimo United.

Although he already had a couple of players available to play Crichton’s position in Cowichan’s Div. 1 men’s soccer game at the Sherman Road turf last Friday night, Flynn summoned Crichton from Div. 3 Cowichan Oak FC, and it paid off as he scored the opening goal in LMG’s 3-2 win.

“We don’t know what we’re going to get every time we play Nanaimo,” Flynn explained. “He’s a good centre midfielder, and defensively sound, and I called him up even though we had two centre midfielders on our bench. I just had a gut feeling.”

Crichton played the entire first half of the match before Flynn had to adjust his lineup at halftime. After Cowichan went up 2-0 on a goal by Blaze Roberts in the 44th minute, Nanaimo came down the field and Roberts hauled down his defensive assignment inside the box. Not only did Nanaimo score on the resulting penalty kick, but Roberts was also assessed a red card on the play. Cowichan still led 2-1 going into the break, but it wasn’t a situation Flynn liked being in.

“Down a man going into half and just getting scored on is not ideal, especially against a team like Nanaimo,” the coach noted. “They have some good players and they know how to win.”

Cowichan captain Colin Knight earned the hard hat for the night — although he didn’t score, he did set up Jordan De Graaf’s goal in the 55th minute, which stood up as the eventual game-winner. A few other players earned consideration for the honour, including goalkeeper Ray Fox, who made some great saves, especially late in the second half when the Cowichan defence was getting tired and Nanaimo was pushing hard for another goal or two. The visitors did score one in the 77th minute, but couldn’t close the gap.

Cowichan and Nanaimo went into the match tied for third in the Vancouver Island Soccer League’s top division, but when the night was over, Cowichan was still in third with four wins, one draw and one loss, while Nanaimo had slipped to fifth. LMG also has a game in hand on the first- and second-place teams.

Cowichan will visit Powell River Villa this Saturday. Powell River has just one win in five matches this year, but the team they beat was Westcastle United, who tied Cowichan earlier this season. Flynn is optimistic about his team’s chances.

“Realistically, if we do what we need to do, do our jobs, we should be able to win,” he said.

Crichton’s primary team, Cowichan Oak FC, won their Div. 3 match on Saturday, beating Juan de Fuca Kings 4-0 at the Sherman Road turf. Alex Smith had a hat trick to double his goal total for the season, and Brandon Tolfo also scored, while Braeden Nash had the shutout. Oak will play host to Nanaimo this Saturday.

In Div. 4, the Cowichan Fury lost 2-1 to Fernwood United, also at the Sherman Road turf on Saturday. The Fury will visit Nanaimo this Saturday.