EFL: Mulgrave fight for victory till the bitter end


Clash of bodies between Doncaster East (L) and Mulgrave (R) at Zerbes Reserve (photo: Davis Harrigan)
Clash of bodies between Doncaster East (L) and Mulgrave (R) at Zerbes Reserve (photo: Davis Harrigan)

Eastern Football League, Division 2

In slippery and testing conditions at Zerbes Reserve on Saturday, the Mulgrave Lions pulled off a gritty and last-gasp win against Doncaster East, 9.15.69 to 10.8.68.

Lions defender David Eddy reeled in his opponent in Jared Marshall just metres from the Doncaster East goal line, resulting in a Mulgrave free kick with three minutes to go – which ultimately proved the winning passage of play.

The match never looked to be a blowout; the centre circle resembled a waterslide as the game went on, and persistent rain left the surface wet and difficult to play on.

Doncaster East caught Mulgrave by surprise in the first quarter, sending two through the middle from Jeremy Musso and Nicholas Batsanis, but that was after finding their radar.

Eddy nailed Mulgrave’s first, and it was a five point buffer for Doncaster East at quarter time.  The main theme for the entire first half was scrappy ground footy and working hard to find a target by foot.

Jared Marshall opened the account for Doncaster East straight after quarter time, and James Papaconstantinou followed suit a short time later.  However, that was the end of the run for Doncaster, but it took almost 10 Mulgrave turnovers before they tasted a major again, with one goal then another to Adam Booth, and Mulgrave squared the ledger, 27 points apiece.

Papconstantinou put one more on the board, and Mulgrave trailed by one goal.  Only their defensive efforts – in particular Brad Fowler and Thomas Gladman – stopped Doncaster East from pushing the margin further out.  Carl Peterson and Dylan Agnew were like greased lightning for Doncaster East in the forward half, but could not find the goals, Peterson spraying two.

With conditions seemingly switching on and off, players had to do everything in their power not to lose control of the ball.  Ben Gilling got the gears rolling for Mulgrave, with Leigh Murphy answering back for Doncaster East – but Mulgrave scored the next four, with Chris Doyle (2), David Waser and vice-captain Dean Siakoulis pushing the margin out at three quarter time to nine points.  The margin rarely moved above 10 points for the entire match.  At three quarter time it was 7.7.49 to 8.10.58 in favour of Mulgrave.

Accuracy counted for everything in the final quarter.  Doncaster had 18 scoring shots to Mulgrave’s 24 for the match, but those 24 included 15 behinds.  Marshall started like a bullet out of a gun in the last quarter, with Agnew also slotting one through a strong mark and set shot.  Mulgrave had other ideas, and despite a 1.5 quarter, held steady in defence for a thrilling victory.

Mulgrave coach Ryan James said his players were ready for the task at Zerbes Reserve.

“You always do (expect a tight one) when you come to Doncaster East. I think the last time we played them it was only two points (the margin).  The ground makes it hard for open footy.”

Chris Doyle and David Eddy were two players who worked at both ends of the ground, and James used both to full effect.

“He (Doyle) played the first half down back…his three goals after half time was the matchwinner I thought.

“We got David from Upper Ferntree Gully in the summer, and we gave him a licence to take the game on, which he did.”

While praising the defensive efforts of Sam Kassianou and Rhett Willsmore on Peterson, James still noted that the game was not perfect.

“We didn’t play how we wanted to play, but we’ll take the four points and move up the ladder.

“I want today to be a benchmark effort…we still have a lot to work on with our ball use.”

Next week, Mulgrave will travel across to East Burwood, while Doncaster East must face Croydon, who toppled Mooroolbark by 25 points at home in round four.

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