The Tatura dressing rooms were awash with smiling faces after the Bulldogs clung to a five-point victory against Shepparton United at Tatura Park on Saturday and the sense of relief was palpable as the supporters filed into the rooms after the game.
While Tatura held a 15-point lead at three-quarter-time, the Demons had the distinct advantage of kicking with a strong breeze in the last quarter.
Earlier in the day both sides had reaped the benefits of the strong wind, with the lead alternating according to which end each team kicked.
Tatura took full advantage of the wind in the first quarter, with four goals to United’s two, however by half-time the Demons had regained a narrow lead.
The attack of Tatura’s Che Walls from a back pocket was a key factor in the Bulldogs’ advantage over their opponent, and the performance of Brad Ryan to nullify the effectiveness of former Hawthorn and Adelaide player Luke Lowden was outstanding.
Facing a five-point deficit at half-time, the Bulldogs took full advantage of the breeze during the third quarter with onballers Mitch Elliott, Andrew Ciavarella and Rian McGough assuming control through the midfield.
James Wall proved to be a real target up forward and provided his midfielders with a genuine avenue to goal.
However, the question remained: Was the lead enough?
Coach Jamason Daniels urged his men to maintain their structures and to use the ball with confidence.
A 15-point lead at three-quarter-time was quickly extended to 21 points at the two-minute mark and it seemed as though the Bulldogs were full of running.
However, the Demons had other ideas and by the half-way point of the quarter they had reduced the margin to 10 points.
Another running goal to the Bulldogs’ Rian McGough gave them some breathing space but United bounced back with another in the space of a minute.
The match had come down to the final minutes as the Demons slotted another to reduce the margin to five points.
Bulldogs supporters were looking to the timekeeper’s box for an indication of time left, however their inquiry was met with blank faces.
The final few minutes were agonising for supporters of both sides until the final siren rang out to signal the Bulldogs’ five-point victory.
Final scores: Tatura 10.14.74 to Shepparton United 9.15.69.
Best players: Che Walls, Brad Ryan, Mitch Elliott, Rian McGough and Andrew Ciavarella.
Final scores: Shepparton United 12.6.78 to Tatura 4.7.31.
Best players: Daniel Flynn, Daniel Maher, Chris Ryan, Angus Eaton, Steve Beale and Jake Chessells.
Final scores: Tatura 6.10.46 to Shepparton United 1.6.12.
Best players: Matt Dodd, Aiden Moor, Calum Minutoli, David Comi, David Palmer and Zak Samkakai.