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YEAHHHHHHHHHHHHHH !!!!!

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YEAHHHHHHHHHHHHHH !!!!! by The Oracle

The strange thing about this game was that it was one of the five that, even before the season began, I had pencilled in for a Melbourne win in the first half of the season. The way it worked, the team would then come home with a wet sail in the latter half of the season to fall into the finals in Mark Neeld's debut season.

My plan never included a criminal prosecution levelled against a leading player, injuries and loss of form, racism scandals, the loss of a major sponsor whose CEO used his Facebook page as a hate site or the death of the club President on the eve of the season. I didn't really expect the coach and the football department to be subjected to such viscious and sustained attacks on his ability or character as we've seen over the past several weeks and it is for that reason that I'm glad that he tasted his maiden AFL victory as a coach this week against a premiership contender that would have occupied top spot on the table but for the result of this game.

The win means a lot but it's not the be all and end all and this is only the start of the journey for Mark Neeld and the Melbourne Football Club. There are a thousand more miles to travel but the win marks the club's first and most significant milestone - the erasure of the "bruise free" tag with which the team was tarnished in the past, first privately among the ranks of AFL players and then publicly after a shameful performance at the MCG last year against Carlton.

You can mark down the date of June 2, 2012 as the day when Neeld's team finally put together four quarters when they attacked low and hard, where they played tight accountable football in the packs and worried Essendon out of the four premiership points on offer for the night.

It wasn't pretty at any time and certainly not at the start of proceedings when the Bombers dominated but, apart from the opening goal of the match, they struggled for accuracy when they could have easily had it in the bag. But Melbourne was stoic. It's young leaders Jack Grimes and Jack Trengove brushed aside the criticism that had been harshly thrust at them and led the team with the help of some much improved form from Brent Moloney, the solid Nathan Jones (consistently good under fire all year) and the tough hard nut James Magner and they worked their way into the game and into the unfamiliar territory of a half time lead.

The other much maligned Jack was mopping up most of what came his way in the backline as well as freaking out the armchair critics who habitually look for that one piece of play that can be played in super slowmo as an example of why he was undeserving of his status as number one draft pick. For those folk, they should know that Jack Watts is coming on in leaps and bounds and has been playing some bloody good footy lately.

Now, Essendon didn't fight it's way into equal premiership favouritism (with about six other teams by the way) for nothing so the push at the beginning of the third term was not unexpected. The Bombers scored the first three goals of the second half and the football world sat back expecting the Dees to collapse in a heap as they have often been doing these days. Melbourne responded initially in much the same way as it had done six days earlier against Carlton. It fought back hard but just struggled in front of goal. Luke Tapscott, normally a thumping kick, failed to score anything from 35 metres out, makeshift key forward Colin Garland's shot went out on the full, Colin Sylvia's shot floated across the face of goals for a point as did a Cale Morton kick a few minutes later. Fair enough, after the Bombers' shocking first half inaccuracy.

It finally fell on Mitch Clark to milk a rare forward line free for interference to score the significant goal of the third quarter. His team was only eight points down at the last change and in with a chance. A repeat of last week's no goals to seven was surely not going to happen?

It didn't!

Colin Sylvia burst out of a packto kick only his second goal for the season and then the unlikely defender turned forward fairytale in the guise of Colin Garland catapulted Melbourne to an 11 point lead with perhaps, ten minutes to go.

And what a time for the coach to pull off an inspirational change? We were now sniffing an upset even when Jobe Watson made the difference less than a goal.

The thing is Melbourne was now showing exactly what it was being trained to do. It's still early stages but the Demons pressure was intense - several points on the Richter Scale greater than the way it started way back in round one. Fittingly, it was Watts who marshalled the forces and repelled the final Bomber onslaught.

Garland missed an opportunity to raise himself to messiah (or at least Buddy) class when he missed a couple of shots from close in before the final siren sounded and we all emitted a gasp of relief, "YEAHHHHHHHHHHHHHH !!!!!".

Melbourne 1.2.8 4.3.27 5.5.35 8.10.58

Essendon 1.5.11 2.9.21 5.13.43 6.16.52

Goals

Melbourne Garland 2 Clark Howe Jones Moloney Morton Sylvia

Essendon Watson 2 Colyer Davey Hocking Melksham

Best

Melbourne Watts Grimes Jones Garland Jamar Moloney

Essendon Watson Zaharakis Fletcher Davey

Injuries

Melbourne Sam Blease (hip)

Essendon Nil

Changes

Melbourne James Frawley (foot) by James Sellar

Rohan Bail (concussion) by Cale Morton

Essendon Cale Hooker (soreness) by Tayte Pears

Reports

Melbourne Nil

Essendon Nil

Umpires McBurney Jennings Foot

Crowd 42,987 at the MCG

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