Much like the chill of winter, the Tier 1 soccer playoffs are fast approaching for Malvern Black Knights.
The Red and Black are currently in striking distance of division leaders East York and Lawrence Park, even though a 1-1 tie against Leaside on Oct. 13 keeps them two points back of that goal.
Coach John Seely was pleased with the result but attributed the draw to the home field’s unsavoury condition.
“I think a tie was a good result because it’s very hard to play soccer on this field. It’s one of the worst fields we play on,” he said of Leaside’s field. “You notice because there’s not a lot of ball control, the ball’s just bouncing away from you all the time.”
Still, both teams managed to score in the first half.
Netting the first marker was Leaside’s Justin Amaro. After several attempts by Lancer wingers and strikers to penetrate Malvern’s iron curtain, Amaro squeezed it through, beating goalie Jesse Stark.
From then on, Stark would shut down any further attempts. Not five minutes later Black Knight Sam Moody would break the Lancers defensive shield, shooting the ball past Aidan Lazzarotto at an odd angle.
Seely credited Leaside, who is currently sitting at 2-2-1 on the season, with playing a good game, albeit a physical one.
Three players were cautioned with yellow cards: Tom Johnstone for Malvern, Matt Choi and Pantelis Kanavaris for the Lancers.
Cautions were no concern to head coach Chris Ujimoto as he admitted the team was trying to unlock the secret to an effective attack strategy.
“Everybody got a chance to play in the game and then in the second we made less changes,” he said. “It did take a while for the players to gel. That’s one of the biggest challenges.
“We have 20 players so we want to make sure that we find the right combination.”
Kanavaris and Matt Sutton, Lancers co-captains, performed well under Malvern’s pressure, Ujimoto added.
Next for Leaside will be against College Francais Oct. 18.
Malvern will be facing the 4-1 Oakwood Barons and the unblemished Lawrence Park Panthers Oct. 18 and 20. The latter match will be a chance to finish atop the South Region, a must for Beach’s Black Knights.