A home clash against arch-rival North Gambier brought the Bulldog bite back to the “Kennel” on Saturday when East Gambier claimed a satisfying win on Saturday.
The Bulldogs vanished a poor patch of form away to score a much-needed 26-point win in the seventh round of Bendigo Bank Western Border football.
Despite losing the past three games, East coach Matt Willson said there was not a must-win mentality heading into the game, but admitted a sense of relief after the final siren.
“Not so much pressure, but we definitely had some conversations during the week about what happens if we continued the poor form because it is so close this year,” he said.
“We have played some average football over the last few weeks, so it was nice to get ourselves back on the winner’s list with some decent footy.” Before the first bounce, the Bulldogs received a significant boost with the on-field return of Willson, who had bounced back from a knee injury.
It was evident the coach made a difference in his first game back in three weeks as his left boot played a pivotal role in the opening goal and his team gained the upper hand during a tight opening term.
The Tigers would have been expecting big things after a hat-trick of wins, but could not claw their way close enough to overturn the scoreboard.
A strong second term vaulted East to a 22-point lead before the main break as Jake Harrap’s quality ball movement became a factor, while Grady Janeway and Tully Balshaw worked hard at ground level.
With the visitors still fighting hard led by the relentless Jake Schutz and Justin McConnell, honours were effectively even across the third term.
The Tigers still had a sniff with one quarter to go, but the tireless Mark Kieselbach man- aged to blunt the dangerous Sam Stafford, while Todd Lockwood and Giancarlo Cooper’s respective four-goal bags iced the game.
Willson said the biggest takeaway from the triumph was how his team presented itself on the field.
“It was more about how we played than the actual result,” he said.
“Our showed maturity and composure with the footy and did not panic.
“We managed to pick through what North was doing defensively and actually executed the plan for the first time since round 2.” In more encouraging news for the Bulldogs, the likes of Brad Rathjen, Matt McCallum and Riley Janeway are not far away from getting over their respective injuries.
Remarkably Saturday’s round 8 marks the first time East will travel outside of Mount Gambier this year and the lucky opponent is Casterton Sandford.
With the once deep injury list shrinking and another win over the Cats likely, the Bulldogs are on the way up, while North faces the tough task of hosting South Gambier.