Demons prevail in tight finish

The experience of Casey captain Mitch White was vital in the dying stages of Friday night's win. 396579 Picture: ROB CAREW

By Marcus Uhe

A thrilling three-point win over Carlton at Ikon Park saw the Casey Demons return to the VFL winner’s list on Friday night.

Scores were level midway through the final term at 9.12 66 apiece with the lead having been traded on multiple occasions in the second half but the Demons were the steadier heads when required, managing three behinds in the dying stages to eke out a much needed victory.

The Demons owned possession and territory for much of the final few minutes but failed to land a decisive killer blow in the form of a goal.

A Brown shot from the 50 metre arc fell short and was forced over the line for a rushed behind in at the 21 minute mark, making the contest a one-point game, before seven minutes of arc-to-arc action only heightened stress levels between the combatants.

The Demons were determined to stick with a run-and-carry game but made poor decisions ahead of the ball kicking to a swarming Carlton defence, while Matthew Jefferson’s move to the back half helped to quell Carlton’s forward thrusts.

Harvey Neocleous had the chance to ice the game in the 28th minute having got the better of his defender deep in the forward 50 with boundless space, but his dribble kick did not have the necessary bend to work its way home from 20 metres out, continuing the anguish for all in involved.

Jefferson intercepted the resulting kick out from full back and the ball found its way to Tom Fullarton, whose flying shot from distance trickled through for a behind, for a three-point game.

While not the result the Demons wanted from the shots, they were able to set up their defence expertly and lock the ball in their forward half for protracted periods of time.

Lachlan Hunter’s tenacity to win a ground ball saw him earn a vital free kick for a high tackle in the final minute and showed all the savvy of a nearly 200 games at AFL level, using as much time as permitted to slowly return to his feet with the clock continuing to tick.

He eventually kicked long to a contest in the forward 50, with the siren sounding as Carlton mounted one final charge the other way.

Hunter, Brown and fellow veteran Mitch White were each vital in the dying stages in snuffing out Carlton’s scoring opportunities and making sound decisions with the ball in hand.

Earlier in the contest, Carlton led by as many as 24 points, thanks to five consecutive majors.

Jefferson kicked the contest’s opening goal in the second minute before Carlton kicked the next five, in a run that stretched into the second term.

But Casey hit back with five of the next six goals, including a pair from Melbourne’s first round draft pick Koltyn Tholstrup, to snatch the lead back after 23 minutes.

Scoring became harder and harder the longer the game continued, with both sides only managing three goals after the long break.

Inaccuracy didn’t help the Demons’ cause, kicking 9.15, but the same could be said for the Blues’ 9.12.

Brown was a major culprit, finishing with 2.6 from his eight shots.

He and Tholstrup were the Demons’ only multiple goal kickers while Hunter, Adam Tomlinson and Bailey Laurie led the way on the disposals count.

The Demons will be eager to break their drought at home in 2024 on Saturday morning when they tackle the Brisbane Lions at Casey Fields.