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Powell River Villa falls to Lakehill in nail-biting road game

Soccer club held Vancouver Island Soccer League leaders scoreless for 68 minutes
PRESSURE’S ON: Villa players [front to back, in black] Griffin Leach, Russell Pielle and Nick Van’t Schip converge on the ball together with several Lakehill FC players in front of Villa keeper Scott McKenzie [left, in green] during the Powell River side’s 4-1 loss to top-ranked VISL team in Victoria on Saturday, September 24.

Powell River Villa lost 4-1 to Vancouver Island Soccer League (VISL) Division 1 leaders Lakehill FC after scoring early in the game and holding their opponents scoreless until the 68th minute on Saturday, September 24 in Victoria.

“It was quite the game,” said Chris McDonough, Villa’s manager. “We held them off very well for the majority of the game; we led for 62 out of 80 minutes. It was a great defensive effort by everyone.

“Lakehill is a tough team to hold off the scoresheet, and we gave them their toughest game of the year so far.”

Griffin Leach scored at the six-minute mark of the game on the rebound of a penalty shot after an early Villa offensive push led to Kalem Lindstrom being injured.

“Niko [Cristante] took the penalty shot and the Lakehill keeper made a good save, but didn’t get on the rebound,” said Tony Leach, Villa’s coach. “The ball came back out, and Griffin was fast enough to beat everyone else to it and smash it into the net. It was a great boost to us, and then we frustrated them for the rest of the first half and most of the second.”

The Lakehill side put a lot of pressure on Villa for the next 62 minutes, but great defensive work by the back line and midfield players thwarted their attempts to even up the score, and fantastic goalkeeping by Scott McKenzie in his first regular-season game for Villa kept the home team scoreless despite repeated shots on goal.

“Scott put in an unbelievable effort, stood on his head several times to keep the ball out of the net,” said McDonough. “He saved two breakaways in the first half, as well as three or four other point-blank shots and at least four other brilliant saves. He was the difference-maker and kept us in the game.”

At the 68th minute, the referee awarded Lakehill a penalty kick, and Lakehill player Blair Sturrock, who played professionally in Scotland for 13 years, beat McKenzie to put the home team on the scoreboard.

“Scotty almost saved the shot, but it dribbled into the corner,” said Leach. “That left us a little deflated – everyone had worked so hard – so we lost focus for a few minutes, and a team of Lakehill’s calibre will capitalize on any opening.”

The home team scored again two minutes later, when McKenzie made another great save but bobbled the rebound; a Lakehill player got to it first and put it in the net. They scored again four minutes after that on a similar play.

“We could have easily folded up the tent then, but Joel Harry, our centre back, rallied the team to take the offensive again,” said Leach. “He got a chance from about 28 yards out, crushed a shot off, and beat the goalie cleanly but hit the underside of the crossbar. The ball bounced down and out, and we weren’t there to get the rebound. That gave us some momentum again.”

A final goal by Lakehill in injury time finished off the game.

Despite the loss, McDonough and Leach are thrilled with the way Villa performed in their toughest test of the season so far.

“Lakehill has done this to every team they’ve played so far this season, but we gave them the hardest time of it,” said McDonough. “We held them scoreless for so long and frustrated them so much that they were shooting from 40 yards out, just to try to get some shots on net. We went in with a game plan, and we stuck to it for most of the game and showed that it works.”

Villa returns home to face Vic West FC at Timberlane Park on Saturday, October 1. Kickoff is at 1:30 pm, and tickets are available at the gate.

“Vic West placed third last season, but after this game against Lakehill, we’re ready for them,” said Leach. “We’re aiming for a strong showing, and it should be a great game to watch.”

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