Casey come up short in VFL cliffhanger

Matthew Jefferson kicked five goals for the Casey Demons on Sunday. 408033 Picture: ROB CAREW

By Marcus Uhe

A seesawing fourth quarter saw the Casey Demons come ever so close to snatching victory from the jaws of defeat against Sandringham in the VFL on Sunday afternoon.

The Demons responded to a rough third quarter in which they conceded seven goals and only kicked two of their own, before storming home with an unlikely run in the final term.

A two-point Demons lead at the long break became a 28-point deficit when the two sides turned for home, and despite a stunning late charge from the Demons, they were unable to make up the ground in the 14.14 98 to 17.9 111 loss.

Four goals came in the space of seven minutes as the Zebras stretched the Demons defence as far as they could with a number of avenues to goal, both talls and smalls in the pivotal third term.

Ben Brown’s second of the quarter cut the visitors’ momentum but two more Zebras goals to close the term extended the lead to uncomfortable territory.

Matthew Jefferson’s fourth goal came in the first 10 seconds of the final term following a Jack Billings clearance as the Demons looked to chase down the target.

Tim Membrey answered back to restore the 28-point lead, before Casey threw caution to the wind in the quarter’s second half in an attempt to snatch the lead.

Run, carry and corridor use became the weapons of choice as time ticked away, and with great effect as they piled on scoreboard pressure.

Beaconsfield’s Mitch Szybkowski nailed a shot on the run from just inside the 50, Mitch White kicked a captain’s goal and the Jefferson/Brown duo remained a handful for the Zebras backs.

They came ever so close, with five consecutive goals in the final term, including Jefferson’s fifth, cutting the lead to just one point after 25 minutes.

But a trio of St Kilda-listed Zebras in Brad Crouch, Dan Butler and Membrey combined immediately following Jefferson’s goal, giving their side a seven-point cushion.

Another late in the term to Sandringham put the result beyond doubt, as Casey failed to kick a major in the final seven minutes following their surge.

Goals were traded in the first half in what quickly became a shootout between the two respective full forwards in Casey’s Jefferson and Sandringham’s Membrey.

Both were too much for their opponents in the first hour of action, with both heading to the rooms at half time with three goals to their name.

It’s the fifth time this season that the Demons have kicked equal or more points than goals in what is becoming a worrying trend for Taylor Whitford’s side in 2024, as is the winless opening to the year at Casey Fields, previously a sanctuary but no longer offering the security of past years.

AFL-listed talent in Jefferson, Brown, Bailey Laurie and Andy Moniz-Wakefield continue to press for AFL selection but Melbourne’s ascension to fourth place on the table makes it difficult for those players to force their way into the senior side.

White stuffed the stat sheet with 38 disposals and two goals, while Moniz-Wakefield had a season-best 33 disposals.

Casey next faces Coburg on Saturday at Pirahna Park.