By Colin MacGillivray
KILMORE received an unexpected test in Northern football league action on Saturday, forced to grind out a nine-point win against Mernda at home.
The Demons came ready for a fight and took it up to the Blues, who were riding a six-game winning streak entering the contest.
With cold and damp conditions making for a physical slugfest, Mernda was able to restrict Kilmore to just six goals for the match.
Scores were level at three-quarter time, and Kilmore coach Nathan Phillips said his charges had to dig deep to pull out their eventual 6.10 (46) to 5.7 (37) victory.
“We’ve won seven in a row now. Other than when we played the [Old Eltham Collegians], we hadn’t really been challenged in a sense,” Phillips said.
“We hadn’t had a lot of pressure applied to us and probably got away with a few things here and there that, when you play a better side, you won’t get away with.
“We were a little bit off on Saturday but we found a way to win. Take nothing away from Mernda, they came to play and applied a lot of pressure and took it up to us.”
Kilmore struggled to find avenues to goal with half forward Luke Chapman and midfielder Chris Ryall sidelined.
In their absence Chris Barton and Mick Marrett proved the match-winners, with Marrett providing vocal leadership and applying physical pressure around the ball.
Mernda onballer Matt Golledge was his side’s best, with defender Jacob Austin and wingman Aaron Colliss also stepping up.
“It was good in a sense that the boys got a bit of a reminder of some of the things you have to do defensively to win against better sides and sides that apply pressure,” Phillips said.
“Having Luke Chapman and Chris Ryall out of the side affected that as well. Chappy has been really good for us across half forward all year, and we probably missed his forward pressure.”
Nick Zaharakis came off with a wrist injury during the match but Phillips said the injury did not appear to be serious.
He said Chapman was in line to return for this week’s game against Old Eltham Collegians and Whittlesea recruit Matt Dornauf could make his debut.
Mernda, meanwhile, should be able to add its third win of the season when it hosts winless Reservoir at Waterview Recreation Reserve on Saturday.
The Mustangs are coming off a 128-point thumping at the hands of Laurimar, which vaulted over Kilmore into second place on the ladder with the percentage-boosting win.
Laurimar will test its premiership aspirations on Saturday when it hosts powerhouse South Morang, which is undefeated in 10 games this season.
In division one, Whittlesea was no match for ladder-leader West Preston-Lakeside, going down 14.15 (99) to 4.9 (33).
The Eagles were outmatched but kept trying all day, kicking 2.2 to 4.2 in the final quarter to stem the bleeding.
Whittlesea will face another tough game against Greensborough on Saturday.