It wasn’t pretty but Melbourne have overcame some late jitters to slay a few mental demons with Sunday’s 22-point AFL win over bogey side Carlton at the MCG.
Simon Goodwin’s team went in to the clash having lost nine of their past 10 encounters against the Blues but prevailed 13.8 (86) to 9.10 (64) in a scrappy affair in front of 46,727 fans.
Carlton trailed by as many as 24 points but hit the front for the first time when Matthew Wright kicked his third goal of the match in the 15th minute of the third term.
The Blues’ stifling defence proved a tough nut to crack for the most part but a spectacular chase and tackle by Demons livewire Jeff Garlett on Sam Docherty settled the contest.
Garlett kicked his third goal of the game from the resulting free kick to put his side 15 points ahead with just over three minutes remaining on the clock.
“The most pleasing aspect was clearly the last quarter,” Goodwin said.
“We spoke to the players about the journey that we’re on and our ability to potentially not have our best day but still to play our best footy at the right time.
“To the boys’ credit I thought they were outstanding. The way they played that last quarter after a pretty difficult day was really good.”
The Demons’ win could come at a cost, however.
In an at times spiteful encounter, Jesse Hogan and Jordan Lewis were involved in skirmishes, with Sam Rowe and Patrick Cripps respectively, which will surely attract close scrutiny from the match review panel.
“I’ve only seen (the incidents) briefly and it’s hard to say,” Goodwin said.
“What will be, will be. It’s really hard to comment on those things… I haven’t seen them closely enough so we’ll just wait and see.”
Exciting Demons youngster Clayton Oliver followed up his 36-disposal effort in last week’s win over St Kilda with an eye-catching 34-possession performance.
Christian Salem, Dom Tyson and co-captain Nathan Jones were also important in the hard-fought victory that saw Melbourne open their season with two wins for the first time since 2005.
Carlton coach Brendon Bolton could have been forgiven for settling for the gallant loss as he continues to rebuild his team, but he fumed at the lost opportunity to score their first win of the season.
“It was one that got away … we’re disappointed (and) frustrated,” Bolton said.
“Our club hurts after every loss… we go out to win every game.
“We’re young, we’re developing – we understand that – but we’ve got high expectations internally.”
Docherty’s late mistake was a rare blemish for the defender who was among his side’s best players with 28 touches and 10 marks, with skipper Marc Murphy (32 possessions) also outstanding.
Dale Thomas (knee) and Jack Silvagni (corked thigh) both left the ground for treatment in the second quarter but returned to play out the game.