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Crows give Cats a fright

By Katrina Gill, with Max Phillips 7:10 PM Sun 14 Aug, 2011

Adelaide's Graham Johncock puts the heat on young Cat Allen Christensen during the thriller at AAMI Stadium.

TODAY'S HEADLINES


GEELONG has put an end to Mark Bickley's fairytale start as caretaker coach, holding off a determined Adelaide to win by 11 points in an entertaining twilight clash at AAMI Stadium on Sunday.

The 14.12 (96) to 12.13 (85) win was the Cats' fifth straight, but unlike their landslide victories over Melbourne and Gold Coast in the past fortnight, the visitors didn't have it all their own way against the rejuvenated home team.

After overcoming a slow start, the Cats kicked away in the third term and appeared to be cruising to victory when substitute Shannon Byrnes put his team 24 points ahead early in the final quarter.

However, as they did all night, the Crows responded, closing to within six points late in the game, and threatening to repeat their upset win over Geelong at the same venue in round 16 last season.

In the end, it was another goal to Byrnes in the frenetic final minutes of play that ended Bickley's dream run and secured victory for the Cats.

The Crows started the game strongly, kicking the first two goals and unsettling Geelong with their much-improved intensity and defensive pressure.

Joel Selwood vented his frustration with a bump on Bernie Vince and was lucky not to contact Adelaide's best and fairest winner high, while Cam Mooney was reported in just his third game back after collecting Graham Johncock with an errant elbow.

The Crows dominated the play, but failed to fully capitalise and late goals to James Podsiadly and Steve Johnson saw Geelong draw level at quarter-time.

Adelaide kicked two quick goals to jump to a 14-point lead early in the second term but the Cats, as they so often do ripped the game open in 15 clinical minutes of football.

Led by familiar faces Johnson, Joel Corey, Paul Chapman and Jimmy Bartel (in his 200th game), Geelong piled on five unanswered goals to go 19 points ahead at half-time.

The brave Crows kept coming in the second half, closing to within seven points midway through the third term and six late in the final term, but the second-placed Cats simply found a way, responding to every Adelaide challenge and holding on for a hard-fought win.

Influential players

Rory Sloane was outstanding, amassing a career-high 36 possessions (17 contested), eight clearances and seven inside 50s. Johncock continued his stellar season with another 29 possessions, while Chris Knights (33 disposals), Scott Thompson (27 disposals), Bernie Vince (26 disposals) and Nathan van Berlo (26 disposals) also found plenty of the ball.

The Cats had an even spread of contributors. Joel Corey topped the possession-count for Geelong with 24, while James Kelly and Corey Enright finished with 21 touches each. Podsiadly was the best of the forwards, kicking 2.3 and Tom Lonergan and Harry Taylor played well in defence in the absence of experienced players Matthew Scarlett and Darren Milburn.

The stats that matter
The most surprising statistic of the match was the lopsided clearance count - not the discrepancy itself, but the team that it favoured. The Crows have been one of the worst clearance teams in the competition this season, and were expected to struggle against the star-studded Geelong midfield on Sunday night.

However, it was Geelong that found it difficult to win the ball at the stoppages, losing the clearance count 39-20. The visitors also had fewer inside 50s (49-54) than the Crows, but were rewarded for their efficiency in attack.

What it means

The narrow loss wouldn't have done Bickley's chances of securing the permanent coaching position any harm. The Crows continued to play a more attacking style of football, and displayed a willingness to chase, run and tackle that had been missing for most of the season.

Geelong will go into the bye having had a tough hit-out compared to its previous two matches against the Demons and the Suns. Coach Chris Scott believes the club's second bye has come at an ideal time, and expects to have Scarlett, Milburn, Andrew Mackie and Tom Hawkins, who all missed the clash with the Crows, available for its next game against the Sydney Swans in a fortnight.

What the coaches said:
Mark Bickley (Adelaide):
"It's a very slippery slope when you start being satisfied with a loss. I recognise the energy and the effort put in by our players tonight. Yes, it was probably an improvement on the previous two weeks but there's still a lot of improvement we can continue to make."

Chris Scott (Geelong): "I thought the intensity of the game was pretty high, so from that perspective it was a positive thing for us. Adelaide's pressure was fantastic and we didn’t react well to that, particularly early, and for most of the night we were outplayed around the ball. Fortunately, we've got a couple of good, tall defenders, who were able to hold them up."

Toyota AFL Dream Team highlight
Adelaide:
Skipper Nathan van Berlo ($322,200) continued his rich vein of recent form posting another 102 DT points from an impressive 26-possession performance.

Geelong: James Podsiadly ($278,000) looked the most dangerous forward on the ground for most of the contest, with the burly Cat plucking nine marks and booting two goals to finish with a handy 100 DT Points.

QUARTER BY QUARTER

First quarter
The Crows started with relentless run and carry through the corridor in the opening term. Adelaide's dare was rewarded, as the home side booted the first two goals of the match. Adelaide's pressure was a feature with the Crows registering 13 more tackles than the Cats. But two quick goals to Podsiadly and Johnson in the dying minutes levelled the scores, erasing Adelaide's fast start.

Level

Second quarter
The Crows continued with their risky game-style after quarter-time with adventurous handball and flowing ball movement. Adelaide kicked the first two goals of the term through Petrenko and Walker. But momentum then swung Geelong's way, as the Cats began to settle. A clever volleyball-like tap from Mooney gifted Podsiadly his second goal as the visitors rallied midway through the term.

Geelong by 19 points

Third quarter
Neither team took a backward step after half-time with the result still in the balance. Adelaide landed the first few punches. Brad Ottens showed great composure to goal from 50m out late in the term to stop the Crows' flurry. The intense pace of the match made it an engrossing contest to watch with momentum swinging throughout the quarter.

Geelong by 18 points

Fourth quarter
Substitute Shannon Byrnes didn't waste any time making his mark on the match, sneaking past the Adelaide defence and snapping a classy left-foot goal in the early stages of the final term. But the Crows continued to fight on. Two bombing goals from outside 50m gave Adelaide some hope. Byrnes bobbed up again to boot his second for the term to snuff out the Adelaide fight-back.

Geelong by 11 points

The next three
Adelaide:
Gold Coast (Metricon Stadium), Richmond (AAMI Stadium), West Coast (Patersons Stadium)
Geelong: Bye, Sydney Swans (Skilled Stadium), Collingwood (MCG)

Adelaide        2.3   5.6   8.10   12.13  (85)
Geelong        2.3   8.7   11.10  14.12  (96)

GOALS

Adelaide: Walker 3, Maric 2, Wright 2, Petrenko 2, Henderson 2, Dangerfield
Geelong: Podsiadly 2, Johnson 2, Byrnes 2, Duncan, Chapman, Mooney, Bartel, Wojcinski, Ottens, Stokes, Selwood

BEST

Adelaide: Sloane, van Berlo, Wright, Knights, Doughty, Johncock, Talia, Vince
Geelong: Kelly, Johnson, Podsiadly, Bartel, Enright, Hunt

INJURIES
Adelaide:
Ben Rutten (flu) replaced in selected side by Shaun McKernan
Geelong: Andrew Mackie (ankle) replaced in selected side by Shannon Byrnes, Vardy (hip)

SUBSTITUTES
Adelaide:
Aidan Riley replaced by Brodie Smith at three-quarter time
Geelong: Mitch Duncan replaced by Shannon Byrnes in the third quarter

Reports: Mooney was reported for front-on contact on Johncock by umpire Shane Stewart in the first quarter. McKernan was reported for tripping Johnson by umpire Shane Stewart in the fourth quarter.

Umpires: Stewart, Nicholls, Hay

Official crowd: 33,576 at AAMI Stadium

The views in this article are those of the author and not necessarily of the clubs or the AFL
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