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Demons hold their nerve to pip Bombers at the post

The Age logo The Age 15/06/2014 Daniel Cherny
a © Scott Barbour/Getty Images a

Melbourne teenager Christian Salem showed poise beyond his years, goaling in the last 19 seconds of Melbourne's game against Essendon tonight, to give his club a fourth victory for the season as the Demons beat the Bombers 12.6 (78) to 10.17 (77).

For the third week in succession, Melbourne entered the final term with the smell of opposition blood in its collective nostrils. This time though, a 12-point deficit was overturned, and after twice absorbing the brunt of Essendon's frustration.

Despite blowing an eight-point lead deep in time on, the Demons would not relent, and when 18-year-old substitute Salem goaled from a 25-metre set shot, the game's oldest club had recorded arguably its most stirring victory in years.

Coach Paul Roos had temporarily shifted the focus midweek from his side's impotence to umpire incompetence. On Sunday, though, umpire Justin Schmitt came to the Demons' advantage, providing a screen which stymied Courtenay Dempsey's attempt to gain possession, early in the game.

It did little to assist a Demons' side caught hopelessly in a defensive mire, partly as a result of Essendon's contested ball obliteration.

It had been more than two quarters between Melbourne majors when Nathan Jones at last broke the drought early in the second term with a clinically executed set-shot from 40 metres. At this point the parallels with Australia's clash with Chile were overwhelming, and down two goals to one, you half expected Jones to seek out an imaginary corner flag.

But the Demons went one better than the Socceroos when Watts - subbed off in ignominious fashion in that 2013 humiliation - capitalised on loose marking from the Bombers to score from a set play on his side's 50.

In the blink of an eye, Melbourne had developed a taste for goals, and a Paddy Ryder goal was immediately followed by one from James Frawley, who marked strongly after a barnstorming run down the wing from the indefatigable Jones.

Melbourne was typically compact and gritty, and as such the Bombers were forced largely to live off scraps. A 38-to-11 inside-50 count had yielded only a 21-point Bomber ascendancy by half time.

The threat of a blowout loomed when Melbourne conceded twice inside the first four minutes after the long interval, but to the Demons' credit, they were resolute in the ensuing stages and were able to at least neutralise the situation.

A trickle of momentum spawned a wave late in the third stanza, when Jack Grimes converted on the run from a distance, before Bernie Vince curled one back from the pocket. It took nearly nine minutes of final-quarter struggle until the next goal came, but crucially for Roos' men Pedersen held his nerve on the run.

Frawley snapped beautifully not long after, and Melbourne could sense yet another victory against a wasteful opponent. Dean Kent escaped the clutches of Jake Carlisle to put the Demons in front, before Jack Watts banged through another.

Lynden Dunn's third age as a footballer continued to prove his best, reliably stoic in his key back post. He was far and away the best player in Melbourne's alternative white strip when his side was on the back foot. Jack Viney was industrious, while Grimes and Jones too found plenty of the ball.

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