By FRASER HOPE
Diplomatic negotiations at the highest level resulted in Old Boys acceding to a Cowichan request for a home game instead of making the journey to Salt Spring for Sunday’s fixture.
As serendipity would have it, an early game inspection of GISS field and subsequent cancellation by the officials allowed Old Boys to appear magnanimous in agreeing to make the trip to Mill Bay and allow the home team plenty of time to arrange the festivities for that other big “football” game of the day south of the border.
The change in plans meant the Old Boys’ roster was depleted by several players who had made arrangements based on being at home rather than switched to Mill Bay. Heads were anxiously craned, scanning the car park at Vesuvius looking for familiar vehicles in the earnest hope that there would be at least a team to take the field. Manager Graham Tweddle acknowledged the “good news:” There would be a full 11-man team. Grigor Hope naturally turned out in a blue strip expecting to play for the opposition and was surprised to find he would actually be on the starting lineup for the Old Boys for the first time since his return from a spell in the High Arctic Soccer League. He did warn that he had been on the losing side so far and that it was maybe a poisoned chalice he brought to the team.
Tweddle was also philosophical about the “bad news.” There were would be no bench substitutes unless this reporter and the lone travelling fan were to put on the cleats, which they both secretly carry in the car trunk for such an opportunity but are never asked.
Unfortunately, I had to switch roles from reporting the “facts” of the game to officiating, as no referees could be found at such notice.
Early pressure saw the Old Boys manage to extract themselves from chaotic defensive moves which in past games with Cowichan would have led to scores the Old Boys could not overcome for a win. Gradually settling down to the pace of the ball on the field, which despite the incessant rains was in good shape (in horse racing terms “holding”), the Old Boys began to dominate. A cross from the right flank saw Hope manage a toe punt that the keeper turned onto the post to prevent an opening goal for the visitors. Quickly the speed and movement off the ball saw David Eadie shoot to the far left corner of the goal for the opener.
Before the Cowichan defence and the referee had time to recover their breath, David Toynbee lashed in a second goal from the edge of the penalty area. Speed was now the dominant factor in the Old Boys’ success as Ben Cooper in defence and Stefan Cermak in attack allowed the Old Boys to rampage down both wings to provide opportunities that were successfully repelled by the Cowichan goalkeeper.
The lack of oxygen to my cerebral cortex may have caused some over-the-top officiating decisions. Or I was possibly influenced by prematch live coverage of Liverpool v. Tottenham in which the referee awarded two very controversial penalties that incensed many of the Old Boys in the Vesuvius ferry terminal? Loud appeals for two penalties came from Old Boys but were quickly dismissed. Justice delayed is justice denied!
Two more goals from Cermak and Eadie could be viewed as a rebuke to the perceived unfair officiating and gave the visitors a comfortable 4-0 lead at the half.
With the past history of Old Boys leads mysteriously dissipating, half-time tactical changes saw Martin Thorn move up to a striker role with Toynbee dropping back into a defensive position in an attempt to hold onto the four-goal lead.
The referee’s short turn-around may have led to the Old Boys not fully understanding the change in roles or tactics. Thorn, especially, looked discomfited in his role as striker and appeared to be in another dimension altogether! After 15 minutes or so, the Old Boys managed to synchronize and began to take advantage of a Cowichan side who were determine to scotch the slight of the four-goal deficit. Raking through-passes out of defence allowed Mike McCormick to score one goal and claim another. To be honest, the second one could easily have been recorded as an own goal since the home keeper made an uncharacteristic slip and allowed the ball to elude his grasp.
In gratitude for the accommodation in changing venues, Cowichan had laid on extra hospitality, allowing Old Boys free access to their soft drinks cooler and a delightful buffet of hot dogs cooked on the barbecue as the teams related after their exertions. It was noted that the referee, who had hardly strayed from his commanding position in the centre circle, was able to beat all others to the last hot dog on offer, hurdling the cooler and elbowing past all opposition to savour the last before the return trip to Crofton.
The conversations as usual provided insight into the major issues of the day: how many tacos to ensure a parking spot in downtown Ganges; quantum mechanics and the fifth dimension in the Cowichan Valley; the aromatic smog layer in downtown Vancouver; need for a BC Ferries greeter like at Walmart; the amount of firewood needed for the coming armageddon; how watching YouTube videos of soap peeling provides that tingling feeling of autonomous sensory meridian response; the new roof for the Ganges post office building and the rumoured new book called “Dave of Deep Red Colonial Gables.”
Looking for four in a row, Old Boys host Vantreights 48s at GISS field on Sunday, Feb. 11 at 10:30 a.m.