Story thanks to Local Footy’s Tim Michell
NORTHERN Knights produced a mature performance to account for TAC Cup neighbour Calder Cannons by 21 points on Saturday.
In a game which featured few highlights, the tenacity of Northern’s midfield and its ability to answer a second-half challenge from Calder was the difference between the teams.
The Cannons drew within six points with 11 minutes left when key defender Daniel Hanna swung forward and drilled a goal from 45m.
Only one of the 11 majors to that point had been kicked to the Grand Boulevard end of Highgate Reserve, which the Knights attacked during the last term.
But the visitors held Calder scoreless for the remainder of the contest, and the result was sealed when Joel Naylor tumbled a set shot through to open a 15-point lead with two minutes left.
Adam Carafa’s goal after the siren extended the final margin to 21, 8.12 (60) to 5.9 (39).
“Credit to the group, they hung in there, took their chances and kicked that last goal to make the result a bit better in the end,” coach Justin Wenke said.
The Knights have set the tone by winning each of the first quarters in their three victories this year, a factor Wenke has pinpointed as one of their strengths.
Northern was four goals ahead by quarter-time against Calder, stamping itself on the contest through early majors from Patrik Della Rocca and James Lucente.
“I reckon that’s where we set the standard for the game,” Wenke said.
“In those middle stages, they got on top a little bit.”
Wenke was impressed with his side’s ability to dictate possession during the last quarter, a deficiency which cost the Knights victory against Gippsland Power in Round 4.
“Everything that could have gone wrong for us did,” he said of the last-gasp draw against the Power.
“Out of anything like that comes learning.”
Ruckman Tom Hallebone was a dominant presence, while Wenke highlighted the efforts of Carafa, Brody Bell and Kye Yodgee.
Northern next hosts Eastern Ranges on June 2 at Preston, a match Wenke knows could shape the rest of his side’s campaign.
“It gives us a good chance moving into Round 8 to be ahead of the ledger,” he said.
Midfielder Curtis Taylor, centre-half-back Daniel Hanna and first-gamer Mohammed Abou-Eid impressed for the Cannons, but coach Ross Smith conceded his team had been “reliant on too few” in its 8.12 (60) to 5.9 (39) defeat.
“To have that many players not on, it makes it very difficult to win the game,” Smith said.
“Having said that, the few that did play well played exceptionally well.”
Taylor had 20 disposals, seven clearances and kicked two goals in the 21-point defeat, while Hanna was Calder’s leading possession winner with 22 and laid six tackles.
“They studied us pretty well and curtailed most of our key players and denied us the ability to link up as we like to do,” Smith said.
“We turned the ball over more than we probably have ever in the past.”
Smith highlighted the effort of on-baller Nathan Croft, who laid 14 tackles against the Knights.
“He had more tackles than he had possessions,” he said.
“But at least he was having a crack for the whole game. Sometimes that’s what we expect from blokes.”
The Round 7 defeat leaves Calder with a 3-4 record, having failed to win consecutive matches in the opening two months of 2018.