BENDIGO Gold produced one of its best performances of the season with a 19-point victory against Williamstown at Windy Hill on Saturday.
Fielding its strongest team this year, the Gold defied a slow start and a mounting inury list to beat the Seagulls comfortably, 18.14 (122) to 15.13 (103).
A fit Scott Gumbleton staked his claim for a return to the Essendon side with three goals in a starring performance, while co-captains Ben Duscher and Trent Shinners provided plenty of inspiration.
It was all Williamstown in the opening 15 minutes as the Western Bulldogs-aligned Seagulls dominated at the stoppages and had several entries inside 50.
Bendigo trailed 3.3 to 0.1 until the midfield brigade started to get first hands on the ball.
The tide quickly turned and goals to Jackson Merrett (two), Dean Putt, Duscher and Gumbleton (two) had Bendigo leading by seven points at the first break.
It was a positive fightback and the opening term was only marred by an ankle injury to Justin Maddern.
Meanwhile, the momentum had well and truly swung to the Gold and they continued their run in the second stanza.
Scoring was much harder to come by, but Matt Little (two) Kyle Reimers kicked goals as the Gold tightened its grip on the Seagulls’ forward line.
Williamstown failed to kick a goal in the second quarter, giving Bendigo a 29-point buffer at the main break.
With Justin Maddern (ankle) and David Hille (shoulder) and sidelined after sustaining first-half knocks, the Gold’s injury woes got worse in the second half when Shinners, Duscher and Rick Ladson had to leave the field for medical attention.
The latter two were able to return to the field, but Shinners remained sidelined.
Still, Bendigo had all the answers to Williamstown.
The Seagulls played their best footy in the third term and dominated most of the play, but Bendigo’s brilliant forward line took its chances.
The Gold were outscored by one point in the quarter to hold a 28-point lead heading into the last.
The result was put beyond doubt when Hal Hunter and Reimers bagged goals to give Bendigo a 51-point lead.
But Williamstown didn’t lie down.
Kyneton’s Jack Redpath, who is a Western Bulldogs rookie, led a fightback.
He kicked three goals in quick time and, with support, had the Seagulls back in the contest.
The visitors trailed by 20 points with about eight minutes left to play and had all the running.
But the Gold stood tall in the late stages and the likes of Duscher, Reimers and David Myers were impressive when it mattered.
It was a deserved win for the Gold, who were harder at the contest and cleaner by hand and foot than the Seagulls.
Duscher (29 disposals) was clearly the best player on the park, winning plenty of hard ball in the middle.
Reimers did his best to earn a recall to the Essendon side with plenty of touches, while the courage of Ladson and Shinners in the defensive half provided a strong example for team-mates.
Bendigo Gold coach Hayden Skipworth did not return the Bendigo Advertiser’s calls yesterday.