CASTERTON Sandford claimed another big scalp at home with a thrilling seven-point victory over East Gambier at Island Park on Saturday.
The momentum shifted either way each quarter, but it was the Cats who kicked with the wind in the final term to snatch victory.
The home side’s triumph was crucial to its finals hopes as it holds a slender advantage over South Gambier for fourth place on the ladder.
East led the majority of the close contest and were in front at each break, but not the one that mattered.
Casterton Sandford playing coach Hamish Jarrad said his side fought hard to remain in the hunt before an efficient final quarter with the breeze was enough to snatch the win.
“It was a real dinky-die battle all day,” he said.
“East probably controlled the majority of the game, but we were lucky enough to be in front when the final siren went.
“It (the wind) was probably a three or four goal breeze throughout the game.
“The conditions did play into our favour, but we still had to apply pressure for four quarters.”
In the opening stages, East enjoyed first use of the wind and stretched out an eight-point lead at quarter time.
In response, the Cats dictated terms when it was their turn to kick down-breeze in the second quarter.
But despite a scoreless term from the Bulldogs, the Victorians struggled to make an impact and only held a two-point lead at the main break to keep the door open for the visitors.
Jarrad put that down to poor decisions in front of goal.
“It was more our inefficiency going forward,” he said.
“We locked the ball in our half for the majority of the quarter, but probably had a few silly shots when we could have played the percentages a bit better.”
Despite the poor conversion rate of just one goal and four behinds during a dominant period of play, it did lift the spirits for the Cats in the last quarter.
Jarrad said the way his team controlled possession gave him the belief they could achieve a comeback win.
“We knew if we did put it on the scoreboard, we were a massive chance to try and win the game,” he said.
“We were confident if we did sustain our pressure for four quarters eventually we would just battle away, grind the ball into our half and put in on the scoreboard.”
But during the third quarter, East appeared to take control.
Led by electric forward Giancarlo Cooper with three goals, the Bulldogs kicked four straight majors with the wind.
It was at this stage Jarrad started to worry Cooper was going to take the game out of Casterton Sandford’s reach.
“Cooper looked dangerous all day,” he said.
“There was a point in the third quarter where he looked like he was going to rip the game away from us.
“We knew if we let them (East) get off the leash, they could pile on scores pretty quickly.”
But it was at this point where Mark Cowland rose in defence for the Cats.
He stood tall under constant pressure and received best-on-ground honours for his performance.
Jarrad said Cowland was a crucial factor.
“He stood up and has put together a good month of football,” Jarrad said.
“There were a lot of one-on-one contests where he nullified the ball and rebounded it well for us.”
During the match-winning final term where the Cats booted four goals, Jarrad complemented the likes of Tom Sullivan, Dylan Ayton and Daniel Richardson.
“Ayton up forward just competed every time the ball got in there, locked it in for us and kicked two goals,” Jarrad said.
“Sullivan and Richardson competed too, ran and tackled hard through the midfield all day.
“They were all really important for us.”
The win was Casteron Sandford’s third in a row, but it will face a tough ask to keep the streak going against another in-from side – ladder-leader North Gambier.
Jarrad said he looks forward to seeing how his team stacks up against the clinical Tigers across the border.
“It is always exciting to come up against the best sides and I am intrigued to see how the boys will go,” he said.
“North are clearly the benchmark side in the competition and are really well drilled.
“We are going to have to put in a disciplined four-quarter performance to try and match them.”
Meanwhile after two away-from-home defeats, East will enjoy a return to familiar surroundings when it hosts South.