Playing a man down and without their captain for nearly 45 minutes, Cowichan LMG still managed to play to a draw against a top team in the Vancouver Island Soccer League.
Despite the adversity, Cowichan earned a 1-1 draw with Westcastle at the Keserich grass pitch on Friday night, and things might have turned out even better had the team been at full strength all night.
“It was a great effort by the guys,” Cowichan head coach Glen Martin said. “Down a man the entire second half against a good team, and we still had chances to score.”
LMG scoring sensation Blaze Roberts got things started at 20 minutes with his league-leading ninth goal of the season. Westcastle tied things up 21 minutes later. Cowichan appeared to go ahead just before the halftime whistle, but their goal was called back on a hand-ball that the referee couldn’t have seen. The ref initially said it was a good goal, then changed his call after appearing to confer with the Westcastle bench.
Things went from bad to worse for Cowichan early in the second half when captain Steve Scott was issued the first red card of his long soccer career, and then Martin was ejected on a double yellow for sticking up for Scott.
The 6-foot-3, 210-pound Scott took out a much smaller Westcastle player with a good, hard, clean tackle, but the ref saw it differently and assessed a straight red card.
“[Scott] has never had a straight red card in his life,” Martin noted. “And he’s been in the league 15 years.”
The Westcastle player, meanwhile, jumped up shortly after the tackle and never left the game.
A 38-year-old veteran of the VISL, Scott doesn’t carry a reputation as a dirty player, which might have made the ref’s quick red card understandable.
Considering the match featured last year’s league champs (Cowichan) and the defending Jackson Cup champs (Westcastle), Martin felt the officiating should have been better.
“It’s unfortunate that the head referee was not up to the level of the game,” he said. “It’s unfortunate that the referee thinks that 200-plus fans that came to the field were there to watch him.”
Assistant coach Ryan Flynn managed the bench for the rest of the game, and the Cowichan players did an exceptional job.
“Our guys were amazing in the second half,” Martin said. “They dug deep and handled the adversity.”
Midfielder Kevan Brown, who will serve as interim captain for the next two games, appeared to play with a chip on his shoulder as he elevated his game, goalkeeper Darian Achurch made some fantastic saves, and Keevan Webb stepped up on defence.
Things are still tight atop the Div. 1 standings, as Lakehill leads with 21 points, followed by Gorge with 20, then Westcastle and Cowichan both with 19, although Westcastle has a game in hand. Bays United remains in the race with 18 points. Cowichan will play another important one this Friday when they visit Lakehill at Braefoot Park.