Our first match of 2017 at one of our home fortresses in Castlelfield promised to be highly competitive game, with newcomer to Div 1 East Malvern coming off a big Round 1 victory. The prematch was about reinforcing some of our basic structures and positional roles to be expected.
On the field the boys were in good hands as Kai & Maso led the boys onto the ground. Their consistency, hard work and preparedness to will themselves at the contest continues to inspire their teammates onfield.
Unlike last week the Rovers set the early tone of the match, winning the clearances with Elliot and Kai up and about and getting effective entry into the forward line. And to instruction the boys locked it the forward line with the likes of Arch forming the effective wall across the forward arc, repelling the ball back to our forward danger zone, where the goal square specialist in Marco posted both our first quarter majors. East Malvern then started to get their mojo going with some quality linked handball, but when the footy entered our backline for the first 2 times, Maxie took a couple trademark clutch marks to save his side from potential scoreboard harm. Nicho was also providing effective resistance in the last line of defence through great reading of the play, but disappointingly they got a late free kick to gnaw away at our slender lead.
The backline continued to repel some early East Malvern attacks in the second quarter with Jenson backing himself to leave his opponent and win the loose ball, as well as Jackson winning important 1 on 1 battles to rebound the footy. Luke continued his clean ball handling and effective handball, and when Oli H showed his class, and put the footy out in front of our forwards, the energetic Josh D manoeuvred his was onto his preferred boot to post our 3rd goal. Another goal from a well earned free kick from James Mc put the Rovers in a commanding position a few minutes out from half time. Once again a late forward entry to EM’s forward half led to their second goal in junk time, keeping the opposition well and truly in the game.
In what was proving to be another arm wrestle, Maso took it upon himself to up the ante with his running back with the flight of the ball contest, bringing the ball to ground inspiring his teammates. Will was moved forward, and with Lucas R and Matteo the forward pressure lifted. With the ball locked deep in the forward line, Ted snapped a clever goal from the pocket to give the Rovers some breathing space. But yet again a late rally from East Malvern led to another late quarter goal, keeping the game well and truly alive.
From the start of the last quarter the backline were under siege as East Malvern kept willing the ball forward. The likes of Josh B and Jake T remained stoic in defence, but with some mis-matches deep in backline their tall timber became prominent and started to take some telling marks. They peppered the scoreboard with a number of behinds, and we weren’t able to effectively clear the ball, that led to another goal. With the Rovers lead dwindled to 2 points East Malvern continued their stronghold on the contest. With the ball eventually cleared from the backline, some desperate 2nd and 3rd efforts from Josh N, and Kyle breaking free from congestion, a Rovers forward entry had the Rovers supporters out of their seats in anticipation. Ben S gathered the ball under pressure and drove the ball post high through the big sticks, with 90 sec remaining on the clock. As the siren sounded, the coaching staff felt a huge sense of relief, and felt proud of the collective effort of the team.
Summary – Castlefield produced an epic battle, and we came away with a win that could have easily gone the other way. We can expect a tough return game against East Malvern when we play them again later in the year. The team displayed great resilience though to come away with the 4 points.
Coaches Ash & Sean