Magpies hold off Gulls

Sam Anstee

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SALE controlled a determined Warragul to finish a 10-point victor during round 17 of Gippsland League football.

On Saturday at home, the Magpies ended the match with only one fit player on the bench, but held on to win 8.13 (61) to 8.3 (51).

The Magpies remain level on points with ladder leaders Maffra and Leongatha. A win next weekend at Leongatha and an unexpected loss to Maffra would see the Magpies finish the home-and-away season on top.

The Magpies made a few changes to the side which defeated Bairnsdale, including a debut to under 18s player Jack Allman, a clever forward who was not even born when coach Shane Fyfe, who was playing his 250th game, made his debut.

Greeted with cold and windy conditions at Sale Oval, the game was always going to be a tough encounter, Warragul’s win over Maffra the previous weekend left the Gulls with a chance of making the finals — if they beat Sale.

A scrappy tough first quarter opened proceedings, and it could be argued that Sale ws kicking with the wind, but changes in direction and intensity didn’t give it too much of an advantage.

John Gooch kicked Sale’s only goal, while the Gulls booted two.

A slender Gulls lead at quarter-time wasn’t Sale’s only concern. Utility Max Reeves suffered a back complaint and took no further part in the game, hampering the Magpies’ work at ground level.

Brad Dessent got the Magpies fired up to begin the second quarter — a goal from a running left foot snap into a cross breeze put the Magpies in front.

Warragul put a lot of numbers behind the football, creating a lot of congestion and forcing the Sale forwards to work hard at ground level.

At any chance of a turnover, the Gulls were quick to push hard forward, at times the Sale defenders were forced to pick up runners as Warragul looked to isolate big forward Brayden Fowler, who was in an intriguing battle with Andrew Quirk.

Jarrod Freeman’s pressure was outstanding, creating space for Brad Dessent, who at times had an obvious mismatch. A strong mark and goal by Dessent right on half-time gave each side three goals for the half.

Coach Fyfe spoke about the need to adjust, the typical style of play the Magpies wanted to initiate had to be tweaked. Kicking long to forward targets and having greater accountability around the football needed to be implemented.

While the wind continued to intensify, the hard ground conditions were taking their toll. In the third quarter, the Magpies lost small forward Jack McLindin to a back complaint and midfielder Mitch Dowse, who was worse for wear after a strong tackle.

Warragul was reading Jack Lipman’s work effectively, with the Gulls midfielders running hard forward from stoppages.

Jayden Allison kicked a goal after a free kick to put the Magpies back in front, a second goal came quickly when a long ball fell into the hands of Brad McKay.

The Gulls responded with two goals as the lead changed hands.

An Allman inside kick was marked by Jackson Glenane, who found Jordan Dessent on the 50 mark — the resulting long shot was another goal.

A few wide shots on goal gave Sale an eight-point break at three-quarter-time. The Gulls were accurate in front of goal — one behind in three quarters in windy conditions was a credit to them.

The game stepped up in intensity in the final quarter, as a large Warragul crowd contingent become more involved. With their season on the line, it was clear the Gulls were throwing everything at the Magpies.

The Magpies again created plenty of opportunities, but the numbers at the stoppages and behind the football continued to make it hard for Sale to get a clear path to put the Gulls away.

A 50 metre penalty given away by Jamie Sweeney resulted in a Warragul goal — the margin now within a straight kick.

It took a clever Kane Martin snap — the result of great pressure up forward — to seal the game.

Allison was terrific for the Magpies, he was strong inside, reliable by foot and stood up when it counted.

Experienced midfielders Jordan Dessent and Martin showed their class by hitting the scoreboard and gaining clearances.

McKay was given a different role this game, his accountability and ability to sacrifice around the stoppages was an important part of the victory.

Quirk was solid in defence, his willingness to halve the contest was duly noted.

Lipman was solid around the ground, controlling the direction of the stoppages, while Freeman’s work rate and Brad Dessent’s potency caused the Warragul back line headaches.