Salt Spring holds Cowichan to a scoreless tie

Cowichan LMG Pringle returned to Vancouver Island Soccer League Div. 1 action Jan. 19 and earned a point in its first tie of the year.

Chris Arnett will have to sit out Cowichan’s next game against Nanaimo due to suspension.

Chris Arnett will have to sit out Cowichan’s next game against Nanaimo due to suspension.

Cowichan LMG Pringle is in first place, and Salt Spring Island is tied for last in the Vancouver Island Soccer League’s Div. 1 standings.

But that didn’t mean a meeting between the teams was a foregone conclusion, especially on Salt Spring Island’s home field where it’s always a challenge for visitors — no matter what the standings.

In fact, Salt Spring did it again Saturday, Jan. 19 in the return to league play for the first time in 2013, earning a point by holding Cowichan scoreless.

“Their worst loss at home is 1-0,’’ said Cowichan coach Glen Martin. “They tied Nanaimo, they tied us, they only lost 1-0 to Gordon Head and Vic West.’’

The field is the great equalizer.

“It’s a small bouncy grass field, just a hard field to play on,’’ said Martin. “It’s not conducive to some real good soccer. It’s a huge home-field advantage for them.’’

Cowichan came out strong, hitting the crossbar in the first minute and having another goal called off by an offside. Kevin Jones also swore one of his shots crossed the line, but the referee didn’t see it that way.

“It was one of those frustrating days and the clock ticked down fast, hard-tackling and mean,’’ Martin said.

He added Cowichan’s Dan Cato got stomped in the face during the heated action.

Cowichan was without the Arnett brothers from Ladysmith — Chris and Matt — but called up Div. 2 players Jose Muro and Steven Zorich in their place.

“No excuse there; we had enough bodies,’’ said Martin.

It was the first tie of the season for 12-1-1 Cowichan. Salt Spring is now 1-10-3.

“It felt like a loss to us,’’ said Martin. “We were pushing really hard at the end to win it. They just kick it out and tackle hard and slow the game down. Give them credit. They work hard.’’

Cowichan has just eight goals against this season, the same as last season at this point. But goal production is down from 50 to 40.

Cowichan heads to Nanaimo this Saturday for a game against a United squad sporting a 9-5-1 record.

“That’ll be a huge game,’’ said Martin.

Cowichan has three players with previous connections to Nanaimo, including Chris Arnett, but he’ll be sitting out the contest while completing a suspension.