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  1. As darkness fell over East Cranbourne early on Saturday evening, an already freezing day turned into a night of hell under lights for fourth placed Essendon at Casey Fields. The conditions at the ground were not helped by the wind chill factor from the strong gusts of cold air blowing in from Antarctic regions that tested players and spectators alike. In the end, they suited the home team which was on a mission after sitting out a week for the bye that followed two poor games on end. The Casey Demons were in top-eight survival mode and simply had to win the points on the night to remain in the finals race. The Bombers failed to score a goal against the wind in this game while half of Casey's majors were kicked at the non-scoring end and that was the simple reason why they won by the margin of 15 points. The start as always was going to be crucial especially with the Bombers opening with the aid of the strong breeze. It was wiry forward Bayley Fritsch who plucked a mark to convert for the first goal after a scrambly start five minutes into the game. The home side defended well to keep Essendon out and when they did finally break through, Mitch Gent was responsible for the quick reply so that they held the lead at the halfway mark of the term. Two quick goals from the Bombers gave them the ascendancy but strong defence from the Demons held them out until a late goal saw them 15 points in arrears at the first break. It took a lot of hard work to make up the deficit in the trying conditions and a succession of points flowed from missed opportunities before goals to Angus Scott and Cam Pedersen saw them nudge in front by a point by the time they welcomed the warmth of the sheds at half time. After the break, the Bombers booted an early goal before the inspired Demons unleashed a three goal blitz against the wind that turned the game on its head. Essendon was forced to spend most of the remainder of the term in catch up mode but it did manage to rein in the lead. However, a lead of four points at the last change was not going to be enough for the visitors who looked spent after exhausting much energy and knowing they had to confront a howling gale to win the game. The end came quickly and at the hands of Casey youngsters Bayley Fritsch and Aloysio Ferreira who made powerful statements with goals in the first eight minutes of the final stanza. Fritsch, already a state representative and the leading Casey goal kicker for the season, notched the first two and would no doubt be on the books of every AFL scout. The game then petered out in scrambly conditions but coach Justin Plapp would have been happy with pluck and the spirit of his charges. The team was well led by skipper Jack Hutchins and the experienced Jimmy Munro and the stout defence that kept a strong opponent to just three goals after quarter time. The Demons would be delighted by the return of Angus Brayshaw after a long time out with concerns over concussion injuries and rookie Corey Maynard continues to rack up possessions with his strong play. Ben Kennedy toiled hard and got plenty of the football, Josh Wagner was a consistent performer throughout and Declan Keilty was good, putting in one of his better performances of the season. The Demons are undefeated at home this year and they take on lowly Coburg at Casey Fields next Sunday in a game that looms as a vital one to win in order to retain their top-eight aspirations. Peter Jackson VFL 2017 Casey Demons 2.1.13 4.7.31 7.8.50 10.11.71 Essendon VFL 4.4.28 4.6.30 7.12.54 7.14.56 Goals Casey Demons Fritsch 3 Ferreira Pedersen 2 Gent Scott J Smith Essendon VFL Begley Francis Hind Hocking McKernan Merrett Stanton Best Fritsch Hutchins Maynard Munro Keilty Wagner Essendon VFL Mutch Merrett Howlett Hocking Bird Dea Statistics Angus Brayshaw 1 behind 17 kicks 8 handballs 25 disposals 5 marks 4 tackles 100 dream team points Dion Johnstone 7 kicks 7 handballs 14 disposals 2 marks 5 tackles 55 dream team points Declan Keilty 5 kicks 5 handballs 10 disposals 2 marks 2 tackles 39 dream team points Ben Kennedy 12 kicks 16 handballs 28 disposals 2 tackles 74 dream team points Mitch King 4 kicks 2 handballs 6 disposals 2 marks 8 hit outs 31 dream team points Corey Maynard 1 behind 9 kicks 21 handballs 30 disposals 3 marks 5 tackles 95 dream team points Cam Pedersen 2 goals 8 kicks 5 handballs 13 disposals 5 marks 5 tackles 78 dream team points Joel Smith 1 goal 2 kicks 8 handballs 10 disposals 3 marks 4 tackles 53 dream team points Jake Spencer 1 behind 6 kicks 4 handballs 10 disposals 4 tackles 22 hit outs 63 dream team points Billy Stretch 9 kicks 13 handballs 22 disposals 13 tackles 93 dream team points Josh Wagner 2 behinds 11 kicks 13 handballs 24 disposals 3 marks 9 tackles 106 dream team points Sam Weideman 3 kicks 11 handballs 14 disposals 1 mark 1 tackle 38 dream team points Mitch White 9 kicks 2 handballs 11 disposals 1 mark 3 tackles 43 dream team points The Demons are headed towards the finals in the last year of the Development League after winning by the same 15-point margin against the Northern Blues in the early game. AFL Vic Development League 2017 Casey Demons 3.3.21 3.5.23 6.10.46 7.12.54 Northern Blues 1.1.7 3.4.22 3.4.22 5.9.39 Goals Casey Demons Zijai 2 Briggs Cox Gardiner Hillard Lewis-Smith Northern Blues Jordan 4 Thorpe Best Casey Demons Gordon Lok Hulett Zijai Briggs Dan Johnston Northern Blues Bolger Ballard Jordan Thorpe Lentini Krithararis
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