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A MATTER OF INCHES by George on the Outer

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Melbourne, the 4th placed team v Port Adelaide, the 6th placed side.  Both with the same number of wins. Both with a contested approach to the way football should be played.  It was certain that the final result would come down to a matter of inches, and so it was to be.
The Demons got off to a flying start, simply overpowering (appropriate word) Port with a three goal first term, but with what proved critical to the final result, they simply failed to make best use of their opportunities in front of goal. Numerous misses from easy positions saw eight shots at goal to four yield a lead of only 14 points when Port managed its first major after the siren after Melbourne again failed to shut down the game in the dying seconds.
The Gawn v Ryder contest was to last all game, with the result probably being a draw, although Max had slightly more hitouts - 53 to 40.  Those numbers were a sign of the game given a single ruckman would have them in a winning dominant side, but this game was all about contest after contest, ball up after ball up.
The same was to be said about the mid-field, Jack Viney 20 contested possessions, Ollie Wines 18. Jared Polec 18 contested, Clayton Oliver 17.  As a game of football it had everything that the game is showcased to be with the exception of the umpiring which left a lot to be desired. It often wasn’t what they called but rather what they didn’t and although that cut both ways, Port was heavily advantaged by the sheer numbers in their favour, especially in the second half.
By half time the margin was two points Melbourne's way, which only increased to eight by the final change. The final quarter promised a game which would go down to the wire, and would be won by  inches, not the dramatic margins that both teams had produced in previous weeks.
In the end Port prevailed, but only in the last ten minutes when they kicked the last two goals of the game when the Melbourne interchange bench was suddenly swamped with injured players needing attention. Tom McDonald, Tim Smith and critically Nev Jetta were all forced from the ground for attention following head knocks. In those crucial minutes Melbourne attacks lacked a target, and the defenders were left floundering to cover the most reliable among them.  Put those players back on the field during that time, and the result probably would have been the opposite.
Normally, there are standout performances to note, but it was for the most part just even across the ground, although some special mentions must go to Jetta and Oscar McDonald who saved certain goals during the match when they were last man standing against multiple opposition players, and somehow they repelled or broke down the attack.
Melbourne lost the game, but if one thing was to be learned was that this type of match is typified by inches.  It is IDENTICAL to that which happens in a Grand Final.  If you win or lose it comes down to winning that contest or losing it, making the error or delivering.  And because the opposition face the same, it comes down to whether you do it more or less than them.  
For Melbourne, there are still a number of players who did not have enough influence on the game when called upon. While those players are selected, because there are no better options, then the best the Demons can expect is perhaps where they are today….somewhere in the 8, but not in the top 4.  
The style of play that Melbourne is playing under Simon Goodwin is what is needed to produce results.  Now we have the consistency so longed for, but without that killer instinct and plain ability under extreme pressure, it won’t be shown against the top sides. To prove that is the case, then the games in the coming weeks against weaker sides should see positive results.  
If not then the 2018 season will be a write off.  If successful, then a continuous improvement and opportunity will happen this year.  
The pundits were expecting Melbourne to demonstrate they were capable of beating genuine teams.  Although a loss happened, it could have easily been the other way.  
Did we demonstrate that capability? 
Did the result fall our way? 
Were Port in the same situation?
Most probably.
And that is why we now sit at 4th and 5th on the Ladder.  We are inches apart.  The games can be inches apart.  We now have to fight to win those inches in coming games.
And the reality is that both Melbourne and Port can find themselves competing against each other come finals time.  Should that happen each Melbourne player already knows what extra he has to do to ensure the result is different than this time.  
Melbourne 3.5.23 4.8.32 9.9.63 9.11 65
Port Adelaide 1.3.9 4.6.30 8.7.55 11.9.75
Melbourne T McDonald 3 Hannan 2 Melksham Petracca Salem T Smith 
Port Adelaide Ebert R Gray Westhoff 2 Boak Dixon S Gray Thomas Wingard
Melbourne Viney Brayshaw Oliver Jones T McDonald Jetta                
Port Adelaide Wines Wingard Jonas Powell-Pepper Rockliff Westhoff
Melbourne Jetta (head knock/ankle) T McDonald (ribs) 
Port Adelaide Nil
Reports Nil
Umpires Deboy, Nicholls, Hay, McInerney
Official crowd 40,751 at The Adelaide Oval

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