WARRANDYTE suffered an upset one-point loss to Kilsyth at Pinks Reserve on the weekend, in one of the most captivating games of the Eastern Football League Division 4 season.
Despite holding a slender lead into the final change, Kilsyth surged late in a frantic last quarter to topple the Bloods, who were without key player Arthur Lamaris. Warrandyte was the victim of a couple of questionable umpiring decisions late in the final term, which shifted momentum and allowed Kilsyth to see the game out.
The loss means Warrandyte holds top position on the ladder over Forest Hill only by percentage, with both sides recording 10 wins and two losses so far this season.
Both sides started slowly out of the blocks in icy conditions and shots on goal were at a premium. A lack of talk in the middle between Warrandyte players was evident, as poor communication resulted in turnovers and errors as the Bloods tried to break the lines.
Poor kicking for goal cost the Bloods dearly in the opening term, registering four behinds after kicking their opener.
Warrandyte was playing the game in their half of the ground, but star Kilsyth forward Jay Sherlock kicked true after a strong constested mark to give the home team a three-point lead going into the first change.
The second term began much in the same vein as the first. Luke Dunn managed to boot an early goal to give the Bloods the lead back, but again Kilsyth respond- ed.
A lack of presence at ground level in the forward line for Warrandyte meant Kilsyth was able to mop up when the ball hit the deck and rebound effectively before the Bloods could set up.
Another classy Sherlock goal at the end of the term gave Kilsyth a nine-point lead at half-time.
Often known as the premiership quarter, Warrandyte showed an increased level of desire at the beginning of the third term. Chad Gauci, who had the ball on a string throughout the first half, kicked a terrific goal to start the Bloods surge.
Suddenly, Warrandyte’s tall for- ward line was firing on all cylinders and three quick goals to Lee Evans had the Bloods fans in full voice approaching the final term.
The six-goal period saw Warrandyte start the fourth quarter with a 17-point lead. What followed was a terrific display in running end-to-end football, with both sides using the corridor at breakneck speed. Kilsyth kicked the opening major to cut the lead down to 10, but Luke Dunn replied just seconds later for Warrandyte.
However, Kilsyth’s big names stood up when it counted. Sherlock and Ben Mullett began to win the footy in dangerous areas and Mullett put through a big goal to give Kilsyth a seven-point lead just minutes from time.
Warrandyte scrambled one through late to bring the deficit to just one point, but the siren sounded to deny the Bloods victory. The final score: 13.5.83 to 12.10 82.
The defeat ends a run of three consecutive victories for the Bloods, including a 120-point crushing of Surrey Park and wins over Ferntree Gully and Glen Waverley. Ashley Froud was particularly dominant, booting 19 majors in the three games to cement his place on top of the goalkicking table.
With six games left of the regular season, the Bloods are in prime position to secure a top two position heading into finals and with key players Luke Dunn and Lee Evans returning to fitness and key onballer Lamaris to come back, the side will only get stronger.
The Reserves have also continued their good form, defeating Kilsyth in a scrappy affair. Dominant 100-plus point victories against Surrey Park and Glen Waverley book-ended a convincing victory over Ferntree Gully.
Gareth Hitchman’s goalkicking has been spectacular in recent weeks, backing up an 11-goal performance against Surrey Park with eight majors against Ferntree Gully.
Hitchman now has 60 goals for the year in just 11 games and a couple more large hauls could bring the century within reach.
Sitting second on the ladder with 11 wins behind the unbeaten Forest Hill, the Reserves will aim to chase down the division leaders throughout the back half of the season.
The Under 19s have moved into third place on the ladder after a routine win against Kilsyth, restricting their opposition to just one goal. A close loss to Surrey Park and a defeat at the hands of Ferntree Gully saw the U19s slipping slightly, but a big win over Forest Hill steadied the ship ahead of the Kilsyth fixture.
The Bloods face off against Forest Hill away this week, in a big clash which could decide who tops the EFL ladder come the end of the season.