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Niners advance in provincial tournament

Masters team beats FK Nikola Tesla 4-0
Stu Barker (24) scores the Cowichan 49ers’ second goal in their 4-0 win over FK Nikola Tesla at the Sherman Road turf last Saturday. (Kevin Rothbauer/Citizen)

A 4-0 win on Saturday afternoon propelled the Cowichan 49ers into the second round of the Deryl Hughes Cup provincial masters soccer tournament.

Darcy Penner scored twice and Stu Barker and Ryan Fusick also found the back of the net, while Rob McIntyre was perfect in the Cowichan crease, as the 49ers knocked off Richmond’s FK Nikola Tesla.

Tesla came in as a complete unknown to the Niners, who opted just to play the kind of game that has already secured them the Tony Grover Cup as Island masters champions and a second-place finish in the Vancouver Island Soccer League masters A circuit.

“We didn’t know anything about the team going in,” Cowichan coach Kevin James said. “We heard a bit about them from different teams, but that can never be too dependable. We decided to go with our regular style of play and make adjustments based on what they did, and everything worked out really good.”

McIntyre, an assistant coach as well as being Cowichan’s goalkeeper, was impressed with the way his teammates controlled the match.

“We played a very solid, structured game,” he said. “Our focus was to put them under pressure every time they had position and we did a great job of that. Defensively we didn’t give them much, which made my job a lot easier.”

Things weren’t clicking for the 49ers in the first 10 minutes of the match, so James made a few quick changes to the game plan, getting his team to press as much as possible. Tesla seemed to prefer a slower pace, so Cowichan’s speed came into play. The Cowichan midfield pack of Darcy Kulai, Richard Lord and George Thomas controlled things in that aspect.

“In my opinion, we have the best midfield in the league,” James said. “Those three guys really dictated the pace of the game.”

The Cowichan defence, led by McIntyre and centre back Adam Taft, was solid as usual.

James felt his team could have played better, but acknowledged that there were reasons for a bit of a shaky start.

“It wasn’t our best game,” he said. “For our first year in the league, and our first provincial game, there were a bit of nerves, but we settled in and played well.”

The Niners will head to the Mainland next weekend to face Roma FC, the top team in the Burnaby Masters league with an 11-1-1 record. A seeded team in the Deryl Hughes Cup tournament, Roma had a bye through he first round.

“I talked to [Tesla’s] coach,” James noted. “And he said that if we play the same way against Roma as we did against his team, it should he a pretty even game.”

Cowichan will be ready for a challenge regardless.

“When you get into provincials and cup play, you can’t have a bad 20 minutes,” James said. “It’s definitely a big change of pace and skill.”

The 49ers can use a potential return to the Sherman Road turf as motivation to get past Roma.

“The way the draw went, if we can get a result and get into the next round, we’ll be at home until the final,” James said. “It would be pretty cool to keep winning and play at home.”