A GOAL with 35 seconds left to Strathfieldsaye’s Matthew Ladson secured the Storm not only a win against Sandhurst on Saturday, but the club’s first minor premiership.
In just its fifth season in the Bendigo Football League, the Storm can’t be dislodged from top spot with one round remaining following their 11.15 (81) to 11.11 (77) victory over the Dragons at Flight Centre Park.
For Sandhurst, the four-point loss has killed off the Dragons’ hopes of finishing in the top three and now leaves them just percentage clear of the sixth-placed Gisborne.
The Storm appeared well on the way to victory when a 50m kick from wingman Jake Hall sailed through for a goal at the seven-minute mark of the final term to give Strathfieldsaye a 17-point lead.
However, with the game threatening to slip away, the Dragons responded with a three-goal burst in two minutes through Lachlan Ross, Ricky Symes and Mitch Dole to hit the front at the 12-minute mark.
With both sides playing desperate football, no more than four points separated them for the remaining 17 minutes of the game.
Dole had an opportunity to put the Dragons seven points ahead late in the game when his shot on the run from 30m missed to the right.
The missed shot kept the Storm in the game, and they capitalised, transitioning the ball from defence to their forward line, where Sam Mildren ran onto it and from the flank kicked inboard, where he found Ladson in the goalsquare for the match-winning goal.
With 35 seconds left in the game, there was time for the Dragons to mount one last charge, but the Storm backline held firm in the dying stages as the siren sounded with the ball deep in Sandhurst’s forward line.
The contest was hard-fought and ebbed and flowed as both teams fought for supremacy.
The Dragons gained the upper hand late in the second term when back-to-back goals to Dole gave Sandhurst a five-point break at half-time, 5.5 to 4.6.
However, the Storm had their chances during the third term to break the game open when they controlled play, but couldn’t finish on the scoreboard.
From 18 inside-50s for the quarter, the Storm added 4.7, with one of those goals to Lachlan Sharp with just 14 seconds left on the clock giving Strathfieldsaye a 12-point buffer at three quarter-time.
“It was a hard, tough game of footy and we were fortunate to be in front at the right time,” Storm co-coach Darryl Wilson said.
Better players for the Storm included co-coach Wayne Schultz, whose run and carry was a standout feature of his game.
Midfielders Ladson and Shaun Everington, particularly in the first half, key big man Michael Pilcher and defenders Ash Trollop and Leigh Prior were also named in the Storm’s best players.
After missing a gettable shot with his first kick in the opening term, Symes finished with five goals for the Dragons, while livewire forward Dole added four.
Joel Wharton and Tom McCarthy across half-forward, ruckman Tim Martin, captain Blair Holmes in the midfield and defender Jake Ward, who held Mildren to one goal, were others to play well for the Dragons
“We had a few players out today, so we’re not disappointed with that result,” Sandhurst coach Shane Meade said.
“We’re not going to finish top three now, but we’re still confident with where we’re at.”
● Match statistics:
Centre clearances: Strathfieldsaye 12; Sandhurst 13.
Inside 50s: Strathfieldsaye 41; Sandhurst 39.
Stoppages: Strathfieldsaye 20; Sandhurst 14.