Powell River Villa fell 6-1 to second-place Nanaimo FC on the road at Merle Logan Turf in Nanaimo on Saturday, November 20.
“It was a tough game against one of the best teams in the league,” said Tony Leach, Villa’s coach. “We went over with a depleted lineup, which gave some of our younger players a good opportunity to get some game experience at the [Vancouver Island Soccer League] Division 1 level, but you have to be at 100 per cent to play well in Nanaimo.
“They are an excellent team, and they work really well off the ball, so it was a chance for our younger players to see where they are and where they need to be in terms of skill.”
The first half was difficult for Villa, with Nanaimo scoring two quick goals at 13 and 17 minutes. Those goals were followed by two more, at 29 and 38 minutes, leaving Powell River down 4-0 at halftime.
“We struggled in the first half, though we did generate some good scoring chances early in the game,” said Chris McDonough, Villa’s manager. “We were missing a few key defensive players, and even though everyone worked really hard, there was a lack of depth on the back line that Nanaimo was able to take advantage of.”
The second half went better for the Powell River side, with Nanaimo adding two more goals to their scoresheet at 59 and 76 minutes before Marcus Cramb scored his first goal of the season to deny Nanaimo a shutout with only three minutes remaining.
“Our goal came from persistence and hunting for the ball,” said Leach. “Cullen Buholzer stole the ball from a Nanaimo defenseman and found Marcus Cramb with a pass. Marcus then put the ball into the goal with a low, hard shot into the side netting. It was a beautiful goal, and probably the highlight of the game.”
Villa’s two younger goalkeepers split net duties, with Scott McKenzie in goal for the first half and Devin Cleghorn taking over for the second half.
“Both keepers performed very well, facing more shots than usual given the difficulty on the defensive line,” said McDonough. “Devin was actually awarded the game MVP by the Nanaimo coach for his performance in goal in the second half, and we’re very pleased to have him in our lineup this year.”
Villa is in the middle of a three-game away stretch, and will head to Victoria on Saturday, November 27, to play Westcastle United at Starlight Stadium in Langford (weather and roads permitting).
“Westcastle is just below us in the standings, so it’s an important game,” said Leach. “We’re at the point in the season where we have a few people out with injuries, but we’re expecting some of our regular players to return to the lineup this Saturday. Westcastle is a better team than their place in the standings shows, so it’s important that we put our best lineup forward and come away from Victoria with a win.”
Villa ends its road stretch in Victoria on Saturday, December 4, against Bays United before returning to Timberlane Park on Saturday, December 11, to host Vic West FC. Vic West is currently in third place in VISL Division 1 standings.
“This is definitely the toughest stretch in our season this year, but we get to end the season with a four-game home stand,” said McDonough. “We’re definitely looking forward to getting back to Timberlane and showing Powell River what our team has learned since the last time we played at home.”