BY DAN MCNEE
OPTIMIST PARK – After a disappointing season opening match on May 11, the Listowel United soccer club rebounded in fine fashion on Monday night, playing to a 1-1 draw with rival Stratford City FC.
Listowel (0-1-1) opened up its season on May 11 on the road against Paris FC, but came out flat-footed after the long off-season and dropped a 3-1 decision. Keith McIntosh scored the lone United goal.
“We were so close,” said United head coach Hans Meier. “We had three point-blank chances. We just couldn’t bury it.”
On May 19 at Wallace Optimist Park, Stratford – the 2013 defending South West Region Soccer Men’s Premier League champion – jumped out to an early 1-0 lead in the first half on a tally from Mattias Wienecke.
Listowel, which finished second overall in the league last season, had several quality scoring opportunities in response but could not solve the City keeper. Striker Jeff Hollinger had the best chance late in the half, taking a forward pass from Christian Meier but was stopped at the left post by the Stratford netminder.
“It was really important for us to play those guys tough, and our guys did really well,” said Meier of Monday’s tilt. “Most of the time they got the play to them, didn’t stick back and attacked every ball. That’s the main thing against Stratford, if you give them room to pass they’ll make you pay.”
United came out a much more determined club in the second half, spending a lot more time in the Stratford zone. Listowel was rewarded for their sustained pressure midway through the half when McIntosh fired a shot on the City goal, resulting in a big rebound that rookie striker Dmitry Polynkin jumped on and fired into the yawning net.
“It felt great,” said Polynkin of his first Premier League goal. The young forward is an Elma Minor Soccer graduate and Listowel native. “Keith shot the ball, I saw the rebound and just put it in.
“The team played well, we got the tie and the guys are happy.”
“The few minutes he played he was right on the play,” said Meier of Polynkin. “He had a couple good passes and he had a beautiful goal there. That’s what we need, young guys with lots of fire in their feet.”
Much of the remainder of the game was played back and forth in neutral ground, but Stratford was afforded two corner kicks late in the last half. Listowel keeper Derek Couto was up to the task of preserving the tie, however, making his best save on a point blank shot that he deflected off the post and wide with his left hand.
“The first game it was pretty tough; we have five new guys on the team and we were trying to get them in as well,” said Meier of the Paris game. “The first couple games are tough to get the team to gel. I think we’re in a good way with the game we played today.”
Listowel United returns to action on Sunday, June 1 at Optimist Park for a match against the SFC Rebels. Game time is 7 p.m.