THE DEMONS have clung to a narrow six-point margin on Sunday afternoon, holding off a fast-finishing Frankston Dolphins side at Skybus Stadium.
Casey Demons 4.14 (38) defeated Frankston Dolphins 4.8 (32).
After a slow start in the rain, the Dolphins quickly adjusted to the slippery conditions underfoot and fought their way back into the contest in the second quarter.
Cutting the deficit to under a goal at the main break, Casey head coach Sam Radford implored his charges to lift in the third quarter.
With the weather unrelenting, the Demons got back to their brand of hard and contested football in the premiership quarter, propelling them to another hard-fought win - something of a regular occurrence for Radford’s men.
“It was a scrappy game under really tough conditions but really pleased by the fight in the boys,” Radford told Melbourne Media post-match.
“We probably didn’t take our chances early, and in really tough, wet and windy conditions, if you can have scoreboard pressure, it is really important.
“We missed a few goals we should have kicked but couldn’t be prouder of how the boys fought it out.”
Casey was buoyed by the stellar clearance work of Braydon Preuss, Josh Wagner and Jimmy Munro.
The trio of followers combined for 70 disposals and 23 tackles, with Preuss again showing he is a class above the VFL rucks with 63 hit-outs.
“Preussy was brilliant again with his ruck clearance and follow-up,” Radford said.
“Munro just plays the same way every week and Josh was fantastic as well.”
Another standout in the clash was returning Melbourne-listed speedster Oskar Baker.
In his first match since Round 16, Baker quickly re-established himself as a ball-winner for the Demons, pairing with another quick in Jayden Hunt. The duo finished with 29 disposals on a tough day for the wings.
“It wasn’t a good day to be a wing [weatherwise]… But I thought both of them, their engagement and effort all day was good,” Radford said.
The Demons had a number of chances to kick away in the third term, trapping the ball in the forward half, but struggled to make the constant pressure count on the scoreboard.
Turning out to be a nail-biter, Casey held on to the very last minute - something they have consistently done for the second half of the season.
“I am just really proud of how the boys have fought the year out,” Radford said.
“We finished the last 10 games going seven (wins) and three (losses). We have lost to Richmond, Geelong and Footscray but have been in all of those games.
“That is on the back of 14 VFL boys playing and competing really hard.
“I am really proud of the effort and determination everyone one has shown.”
While it was a hard-fought win, it was also a tough day for youngster Jay Lockhart.
After sustaining a heavy knock in the opening quarter, the Melbourne-listed midfielder headed to the bench, being watched by the Casey trainers.
The 23-year-old returned to the game and, despite finding himself on the receiving end of several other heavy hits throughout the afternoon, was able to play out the rest of the game as a deep forward.
While Sunday's win brought Casey's regular season to an end, the victory keeps the side’s hopes of playing finals football alive.
Moving on to 36 points and into eighth place, the Demons have a bye in the final round of the VFL season and will hope results go their way to make it to Port Melbourne for the opening round of the 2019 finals.
The Casey Demons faithful will be watching next weekend’s match-up between the Box Hill Hawks and Collingwood with keen interest; a Collingwood win and the Demons are in, but a Hawks win and Casey's season comes to a close.
CASEY DEMONS 2.6 3.8 4.13 4.14 (38)
FRANKSTON 0.2 3.3 3.4 4.8 (32)
Preuss, Wagner, Munro, Baker, Hutchins
Hutchins 2, Buxton, White