“We spoke as a group, the players, after that game, and made a pact not to play like that again. We had a real focus to fight it out and win an arm wrestle for four quarters and we did that tonight,” he said.
“He [Neeld] has been under enormous pressure and the players know that, and feel that, and I think they responded tonight.”
Trailing at three-quarter-time after leading for much of the night, the Demons grabbed back the lead midway through the final term via defender-turned-forward Colin Garland. Neeld moved Garland forward after reviewing the players’ draft reports this week and noticing that he had been recruited from Tasmania as a forward.
Only a minute earlier, Melbourne had been denied a goal when Daniel Nicholson’s shot was ruled touched on the line by airborne Essendon backman Kyle Hardingham without being referred for review.
The Demons moved 11 points clear after Garland scored again from the goal square soon after and held on for the final six minutes after a Jobe Watson goal narrowed the gap.
The loss was Essendon’s second for the season, ahead of a clash next week with fellow top four contender Sydney, with the 6.16 scoreline indicating how many opportunities in front of goal were squandered and coach James Hird confident his players would respond quickly against the Swans.
“We didn’t play well. We didn’t convert our opportunities, we didn’t win our contested footy. The things we think we’re good at, we didn’t do well tonight,” he said.
“We let Melbourne, who haven’t won a game, have a sniff, and if you’re desperate for a win and you get a sniff, you lift a cog and all credit to the way they played. They beat us in the areas we think we’re good at which is clearances and getting the ball out.”
1.2 4.3 5.5 8.10 (58)
1.5 2.9 5.13 6.16 (52)
Melbourne: Garland 2, Moloney, Morton, Sylvia, Howe, Clark, Jones.
Essendon: Watson 2, Davey, Hocking, Melksham, Colyer.
Melbourne: Jones, Watts, Garland, Grimes, Moloney, Nicholson, Rivers.
Essendon: Watson, Zaharakis, Fletcher, Carlisle, Hurley.
McBurney, Jennings, Foot.
42,987 at MCG.
HOWE’S THAT FOR A GOAL
Jeremy Howe submitted his entry for mark of 2012 a few weeks back on the SGC, and last night turned his mind to a new award category. Howe’s running first-quarter goal — he accepted a pass on full stretch and scored despite running straight towards the boundary line with no time to pause — might not win him any cars, but could get him a goal-of-the-week nod.
HURLEY HOT AND COLD
Michael Hurley was not the only player to miss some seemingly straightforward shots for goal. Stewart Crameri, Cale Morton, Colin Sylvia, Colin Garland and Travis Colyer can raise their hands, too. But playing his third match back from a hamstring injury, the long-sleeved Bomber found some form simply by attacking contests and bringing the ball to ground. He added some energy to a very flat match and got Essendon going after half-time, while squandering some opportunities that, ultimately, proved very costly.
UNWANTED RECORD AVOIDED
Melbourne avoided its worst start to a season since 1919 by winning. That year didn’t get any better, either, with the club losing all of its 16 games. The club introduced 28 new players, some of them not getting to add a second game, as others began to return from the World War I recess. One of them, though, went on to much bigger things, with future Brownlow medallist and club administrator Ivor Warne-Smith starting his 146-game career.