On Thursday, June 23 Top Notch United dropped a hard-fought soccer battle against the Campbell River Masters 2-1. The previous meeting between these two closely contested teams ended in a 0-0 draw. This highly anticipated Spring League semifinal was no different.
But there was a difference. Although the field was not up to regulation, the fact that Top Notch came out of the gate with an early goal from consistent goalscorer Peter Croonen before the five-minute mark, was remarkable.
Top Notch’s ball movement as well as player movement early on was no doubt pleasing to the eye. After the stunning start, the game started to ebb and flow as the Masters were starting to find some rhythm of their own. Around the 20-minute mark a Masters player played a though ball to a forward who seemed to be easily marked but somehow got free and sent the ball into the back of the net.
Top Notch, now tied and needing to regroup, was surprised again at the 30-minute mark when a Masters player at the top of the box ripped a quality shot into the short side, just beating a fully extended Lawry Willis who was hoping his fingers were an inch longer.
With Top Notch down 2-1 at the half it was time to take a deep breath and get back to what was making them successful to begin with. The second half started again with good ball movement from both sides as there wasn’t much room to work with.
As Top Notch started to apply pressure for the equalizer and time ticked away it was evident that the tension between the teams had started to rise. The amount of whistles was increasing, as was the fouls which then initiated some verbal jousting to gain any sort of advantage.
With about 15 minutes left to play Nick Marinus went up for a head ball resulting in a collision with the Masters defender which initiated a testorone war. First was the father figure Andy Marinus entering the ring and then one by one the crowd grew bigger. After a few minutes of pushing, shoving and finger pointing cooler heads prevailed and the ref dished out his form of punishment to the guilty parties.
With intense pressure from Top Notch pushing numbers forward and some quick counter-attacking from the Masters it was only a matter of time until Top Notch would get a chance. A chance they did get as in the dying minutes a ball was played to the eversteady Brian Gage who found himself at the 12 yard spot one-on-one with the keeper. With a laser beam travelling at meteorite speed the Masters keeper came up with what many people would call the save of the year.
With hands on their face in disbelief, Top Notch finally succumbed to the final whistle. With “should have beens” being the talk on the sidelines the players gathered after to enjoy what they really play the game for – time with friends.
– Top Notch United