Down to the wire in top-two battle

TOO GOOD: South Gambier's Emerson Marks put in a best-on-ground performance through the Demons midfield on Saturday. Picture: MELANIE RILEY

James Murphy

SOUTH GAMBIER 11.7 (73) d MILLICENT 9.18 (72)

IT came down to the wire but South Gambier has dealt Millicent its first loss of the inaugural Limestone Coast football season.

At the final siren the Demons prevailed by a solitary point, much to the excitement of the home crowd.

South impressed in the opening half and a five-goal first term ensured it sat well heading into the second quarter.

The margin extended further before the main break and at half time the Demons led by 19 points.

However, the Saints wrestled back some control in the “premiership” quarter and had 10 scoring shots to South’s four.

Unfortunately for Millicent, only three of those shots found their mark and a return of 3.7 prevented a leader swap.

Still, the Saints were nipping at the Demons’ heels and there was only three points the difference at the final change.

Millicent went on to claim the lead early in the fourth quarter, but South remained composed and managed to push ahead once more, holding on until the final siren.

“It was a tight contest all game,” South coach Peter Duncan said.

“We were up by about three or four goals during the first half.

“Obviously Millicent are a well drilled and really strong side and they hit back – as you would expect a good side to do – in the third quarter.

“To their credit they got ahead by a couple of goals early in the last quarter.”

Despite that fourth-quarter pressure, Duncan was impressed by the response from his young team.

“I was just really proud of the way the boys had learned lessons from the week before, where we let up a couple of easy goals late, to dig their toes in and get back in front,” Duncan said.

“Then we were able to hold on.

“Especially for our young side, just getting that bit of nourishment for the work they have been doing (was great).”

The Demons were seven points up, before a Millicent goal made it a one-point game.

The result was a tense four minutes to see out the game, with both teams fighting until the final siren.

“The last four minutes was a real slog fest and we were just trying to save the contest,” Duncan said.

“We were good enough to hold on for long enough.”

Both teams had their moments throughout the contest and it would have been a good spectacle for the neutral supporters.

Emerson Marks was South’s best on ground for the day, with a strong team performance helping

“The good thing about Elmo is just his contribution for four quarters,” Duncan said.

“He is a really good mark for a midfielder and he finds a lot of footy and he is probably one of our better ball users.

“If we have the ball in his hands, more often than not good things happen for us – he really stood up.”

Oliver Thompson also stood tall, with another strong defensive performance.

“He has had a really strong start to the year,” Duncan said.

“He is very athletic, he can play tall or small and he is a bit of a coach’s dream in terms of giving a match-up to him.

“He is really good going the other way as well.”

Rex Jones matched up on Millicent star Frazer Bradley in an attempt to keep him quiet in front of goals.

Bradley still managed to score four majors on the day to top score for the match.

Others to impress for South included Taylor Saffon and Mitchell Sims, while youngster Brody Fox played a strong game down back despite his youth.

Brayden Kain rounded out the list, while Ethan Chuck, Nelson Forbes and Mason Hein topped the scoresheets for the Demons with two goals each.

Millicent looked to two of the Shanks brothers on the day, with Billy named best on ground and Kalan second best for another strong outing in the backline.

Zac McGuinness and Bradley also impressed, while Sam Willis and Josh Werchon continued to catch the eye of coaching staff after a string of good performances.

Willis also made his presence known up forward, with three majors.

The win was not enough to raise South into top position, but now only percentage separates the sides.

“It was definitely nice to get one over the old rival early,” Duncan said.

“For me it was more about responding from last week.

“We were in the contest for so long against West and then just let it go for a short period of time and it lost us the game.

“To be able to bounce back from that and lean our lesson a week later, that was the most pleasing thing.”

South makes the cross-border trek to play Casterton Sandford next round, while Millicent hosts North Gambier in a rematch of the last ever Western Border football grand final.