SOUTH GAMBIER 10.11 (71) d CASTERTON SANDFORD 8.8 (56)
SOUTH Gambier held on to score an important victory over Casterton Sandford in an unpredictable round 11 Western Border football clash at Blue Lake Sports Park on Saturday.
Despite a scoreless final term, the Demons won the high-stakes match by 15 points on a day which saw the momentum swing either way each quarter.
With just percentage separating both sides on the ladder heading into the game, a win was crucial to their respective finals chances.
The home side set the tone in the opening quarter with a fast start to score 26 points and restrict its Victorian opposition to just one goal before the first break.
However, Casterton Sandford hit its straps afterwards and closed the margin during a four-goal second quarter.
But the Demons held onto a seven-point lead as they managed to score two majors against the run of play.
With little more than a kick separating the rivals when they returned to the rooms at half time, a thrilling fight for the win was anticipated.
However, South took the ascendancy in a game-changing third quarter.
The Demons kicked away with 12 scoring shots to one and left the Cats startled.
South coach Brett Exelby enjoyed his most productive day since his return to the field with a pair of majors to lead the goal-scorers list with the ever-impressive Jake Tentye.
Tentye has been a shining light throughout the season and stepped up to lead his team again.
The experienced heads led the way as Brett O’Neil and Bronson Saffin proved to be key players with a goal each, while Brent Howard continued to get his knees dirty with another solid effort.
But the impressive young brigade did not disappoint, as Kaleb Bowd showed strong form around the half-back line, while Alex Harkness, Brodie Glynn and Todd Reid returned with a major respectively.
At the final break, the Demons led by a comfortable 33-point margin and a home-side victory appeared set, but Casterton Sandford had other ideas.
The Cats managed to keep South scoreless in a nail-biting final term as the visitors closed down the margin.
But Casterton Sandford failed to capitalise and was left to lament six missed opportunities, which could have changed the end result.
The Demons claimed the win and now sit in the box seat, a game clear above the Cats in the intense fight for the last remaining finals position.
Despite the poor finish, the win produced many encouraging signs for the improving South outfit after a tough year.
With eight individual goal scorers, the Demons finally addressed their inability to score without a heavy reliance on key-forward Brayden Kain.
Bowd stood out to earn best-on-ground honours and he was joined by fellow young gun Mason Hein, who used his height to good use.
For the Victorians, Mark Cowland impressed to lead his team, while Dylan Ayton booted two goals and Daniel Richardson found form around the ground.
Both sides will be up against it next week as South will remain in familiar surroundings when it hosts North Gambier, while the Cats welcome ladder-leaders West to Island Park.
With five rounds and a rematch remaining, the hotly contested fourth spot on the ladder is finely poised.