AN eight-goal first quarter burst helped Stratford hold off Lindenow to remain on top of the East Gippsland football ladder, 11.8 (74) to 9.7 (61).
Stratford got off to a fast start, taking a six-goal lead into the first break before the Cats hit back, holding the Swans goalless in the second and third terms to draw within three points at the final change of ends.
The Cats added two goals in a torrid second term, with the Swans still holding a comfortable lead at half-time, but added four goals in the third term to claw their way back into the contest.
With its top of the table status threatened, experience won out for the Swans with three final quarter goals to keep the Cats at bay.
Michael Walker kicked two goals and finished best afield, while Gavin Bickery, Lewis Bolton, Tye Morrison, Tim Hawkins and David McLay all stood up when it counted.
Nathan Channing and Luke Clohesy also kicked two goals for the Swans.
Brett Walker and Luke Schumann were the focal points up forward for the Cats, each finishing with four goals.
Stratford remains in top spot on the reserves ladder despite a 16-point loss to the Cats, while the third-placed under 18s went down to a stronger Lindenow outfit, second on the ladder, by 43 points.
PAYNESVILLE scored a comfortable nine-goal win over Lakes Entrance to remain in contention for a top of the table finish.
Holding an eight-point advantage at half-time, the Gulls pulled away in the second half to run out 17.23 (125) to 10.11 (71) victors.
Bairnsdale-listed Mark Sellings kicked four goals for the Gulls, while Shaun Ryan and Ben Haslam kicked three each.
Damien Ashcroft put in a best-on-ground effort for Paynesville, while Bairnsdale-listed Luke Reggardo was Lakes Entrance’s best.
Magpies still in race
LUCKNOW also remains in contention to finish top of the table with a 63-point win over finals aspirant Wy Yung.
The Magpies set-up the 20.9 (129) to 9.12 (66) win with an eight-goal second quarter before finishing strongly with five majors in the final term.
Brent Isles kicked five goals for the Magpies, while Andrew Gieschen kicked four. Coach Gary Jones led the way for the Magpies in a best-on-ground performance.
Matt Counahan kicked three goals for Wy Yung, with Darby McCallum the Tigers’ best.
ORBOST-Snowy Rovers had the bye.