Leitchville-Gunbower has gone down to Heathcote by two points in the Heathcote and District Football League elimination final.By Geordie Cowan
An undermanned Leitchville-Gunbower literally fell just short of what would have been a dramatic victory against Heathcote at Atkins St in the Heathcote and District Football League elimination final yesterday.
Jye Keath had a free-kick after the siren but his long set shot fell 5m short as the Heathcote faithful and players celebrated alike, winning 14.11
The Bombers looked to have grabbed a big enough lead early in the last quarter when it pushed out to a 17-point advantage only for the Saints to slowly exert a greater dominance over the clearances.
Much of the last five minutes was spent camped in Leitchville-Gunbower’s forward line, with almost all Heathcote players in defence, before Keath received a free-kick for high contact with about two seconds on the clock.
The Bombers suffered a setback from the start when best and fairest winner Russell Lee was a late withdrawal and assistant coach Cameron Carter suffered concussion early in the first quarter.
The match proved to be an entertaining contest, with many lead changes and of a close nature throughout.
Leitchville-Gunbower coach Marty Shadbolt had one of his best games for the club with five straight goals at half-forward, while a spread of players tried to push the team over the line, including midfielders Kade Merlo and Joel Donehue and defenders Sam Hawkins and Ben Embleton, while ruckman Cam Ross, midfielder Matt Cannard and forward Ryan Eastman also had good games.
Likewise the load was spread for Heathcote, with Darcy McLean, Nathan Bake and ruckman Daniel Russell important.
Silky midfielder Blake Coyle had a superb first half and forward Reece Carmichael kicked 4.5 in a spirited contest with Hoby Bussey.
The Saints had the advantage of the wind in the opening term, but it was Shadbolt who kicked the first goal of the game.
Heathcote gradually took control of the contest, but its 33-20 lead at the first break was primarily due to making more of its set shots.
Shadbolt was relatively pleased with his team’s performance in the opening term, but highlighted the need to cut down on turnovers.
An early goal to Carmichael pushed the lead out to 19 points, but the Bombers fought back first through Merlo finishing off a good team move, before Tim Douglass spectacularly goaled off the ground as the margin was reduced to just one point by half-time.
The teams went goal-for-goal in the third term, but as Leitchville-Gunbower increased its pressure on the opposition, goals to Shadbolt and Joel Donehue earned the Bombers a six-point lead at the final break.
Shadbolt pressed the need for intensity, tackling and work rate before the last quarter started and it looked early on that the Bombers would go on to snatch the win.
Joel Helman goaled after Carmichael gave away a free-kick and a 50m penalty and then a superb set shot from the boundary by Eastman extended the lead to 17 points.
With their backs against the wall, Heathcote lifted its own intensity and started to win almost every clearance, with goals to Chris Chilcott, Carmichael and Coyle giving their team the lead.
Then it was Leitchville-Gunbower’s turn to respond as Shadbolt snapped the ball out of the pack, before Illarietti skidded the ball home for the Saints to get the two-point lead back again.
Play then became a lot more contested, with every disposal hard-fought and a delay while Embleton was carried from the ground with an ankle injury only added to the drama.
With the ball locked in their forward half, the Bombers were unable to get a clean shot at goal before the finale.
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