North Heidelberg secured its spot in the Northern Football League Division 1 finals with a thrilling seven-point victory over Greensborough in Round 16.
In a see-sawing affair, a late Leigh Gilbert goal saw the home side claim the 11.15 (81) to 11.8 (74) victory at Shelley Reserve and move outright second on the ladder with two rounds remaining.
North Heidelberg ruckman Michael Florance claimed best on ground honours, giving his midfielders first use of the ball. Brent Harvey’s final quarter was also telling, often bursting clear from congestion and to drive his side forward.
The Bulldogs were also well led by Shane Harvey, who booted six goals to take his tally to 61 for the season, while brother Brent and Jackson Jones booted two majors apiece.
For the Boro, Josh Riddle and Jack Johnston were the only multiple goal scorers, booting three and two goals respectively. Both were named among their side’s best players, along with Billy Bedford, Charlie Molyneux and Tynan Smith.
The home side got off to the perfect start as Shane Harvey snapped his first goal inside the first 30 seconds.
The Bulldogs were able to carry that momentum throughout the first quarter, as Jones booted his first before the Harvey brother set each other up for goals to stretch the lead out to 25 points.
Adrian Cataldo snapped the Boro’s first major late in the first term to cut the deficit to 20 points at quarter time.
Josh Riddle and Ben Pannam converted early in the second term to give the Boro some life, before Brent Harvey kicked his second from a coast-to-coast play to settle the Bulldogs.
With the Boro needing a spark, it was Jack Johnston who delivered.
The NFNL representative struck twice in a minute after moving up forward midway through the quarter, before Riddle booted his second to cap off a five-goal to one quarter for the Boro to put the visitors in front for the first time just before the main break.
Riddle kicked his third before Tynan Smith got on the board early in the third term as the Boro looked ready to break the game open, with a 14-point advantage.
However, the Bulldogs had other ideas, booting the next three goals to reclaim the lead, before Andrew Stellas put the away side ahead by a point at three quarter time, with a goal right before the siren.
In a huge blow for the Boro, star defender Nick Riddle was stretchered from the ground midway through the third quarter after a heavy collision in a courageous marking attempt.
In a contested final quarter, neither side could wrestle the momentum their way as they traded goals for the first 20 minutes.
After Tristan Stead put the Boro up by three points at the 22-minute mark of the quarter, the Bulldogs began attacking at all costs.
The home side had three chances to put themselves in front but missed them all. With scores level, Leigh Gilbert stood up and converted on the run to give the home side a six-point lead.
The Boro were unable to make one final comeback as the Bulldogs secured their finals spot and moved one game clear in second place, ahead of matches against Northcote Park and Bundoora.
Greensborough faces another tough match when it hosts Bundoora, with both sides looking to cement their spot in the top five.
Final score: North Heidelberg 11.15 (81) def Greensborough 11.8 (74)