Jack Watts celebrates a Melbourne goal. Click for more photos

Loss for Blues

Jack Watts celebrates a Melbourne goal.

MELBOURNE 3.2 6.7 10.8 12.9 (81) CARLTON 3.4 5.9 6.11 7.16 (58)
GOALS Melbourne: Dawes 2, Frawley 2, Watts 2, Bail 2, Pedersen, Kennedy-Harris, Dunn, Jones. Carlton: Yarran 2, Ellard 2, Casboult, Henderson, Murphy.
BEST Melbourne: N Jones, Frawley, McDonald, M Jones, Viney, Cross, Grimes. Carlton: Simpson, Yarran, Curnow, Gibbs, Walker.
UMPIRES Dalgleish, Mollison, Mitchell.
CROWD 37,323 at MCG.

When a team has won just one of its past 21 games, and not at all for nearly a year, you can’t take anything for granted. And so, with Melbourne nearly four goals up on Carlton and just six minutes left on the clock, still a nervy buzz persisted around the MCG – Carlton continuing to attack but managing only behind after behind, the Demons refusing to believe.

Until Cam Pedersen dropped a mark, picked up the spills and from the boundary line threaded an almost accidental match-sealer.

What a win ... James Frawley and Chris Dawes celebrate a goal.

What a win ... James Frawley and Chris Dawes celebrate a goal. Photo: Pat Scala

Time
FT
Team
CAR
Score
7.16.58
Team
MEL
Score
12.9.81
Carlton versus Melbourne
View Match Statistics
Players Ellard (2.2), Yarran (2.2), Henderson (1.1), Casboult (1.0), Murphy (1.0), Gibbs (0.3), Everitt (0.2), Carrazzo (0.1), Cripps (0.1), Graham (0.1) Scorers Bail (2.1), Frawley (2.1), Dawes (2.0), Watts (2.0), Dunn (1.2), Jones (1.0), Kennedy-Harris (1.0), Pedersen (1.0), Cross (0.1), Kent (0.1), Vince (0.1)

The reality then sunk in ... a rare emotion for the Demons, and a feeling of dread for the team it had just upset.

That prompted a flood of navy blue and white up the exit aisles, and lord knows what else over the next few days. Because while Carlton appeared more interested  on Saturday than it had been the previous Sunday evening, the Blues did not look a whole lot more capable.

Just two goals in the second half, and four in about the final 100 minutes of play, is the sorry tale. No confidence, no leaders stepping up to the plate and a season as good as gone before it had barely started.

But let’s not forget the victor. Melbourne did not start this game well and lost just about every key statistical indicator except one very symbolic one: the tackle count.

The Demons were a committed bunch indeed on Saturday, epitomised by big, stringy ruckman Jake Spencer early in the second quarter reaching out and dragging down the far more fleet-of-foot Chris Yarran. And by the game of co-skipper Nathan Jones, who not only shut down his opposite number Marc Murphy, but ended up with more disposals than anyone bar one other player on the ground.

Melbourne’s commitment was also was evident in the terrific game of James Frawley, once again thrown forward but this time with enormous impact.

The All-Australian fullback ended with 24 disposals, 14 marks, kicked two goals and gave off four score assists. And at the other end in the less-heralded Tom McDonald, who gave a more feted opponent in Lachie Henderson a real contest all day.

The resistance came after a start that would have had even glass-half-full Melbourne types wincing in unison.

Things certainly started a lot better for Carlton than last week. The Blues had two goals on the board  without Melbourne having registered a score, but, incredibly, just one handball in three minutes of playing time. The first goal came courtesy of not one but two silly Melbourne errors when ruckman Spencer conceded a free kick to Murphy at the first bounce, then Daniel Cross failed to return the ball properly and conceded a 50-metre penalty.

With the next attack, veteran Blue Kade Simpson put the ball on the chest of a leading Levi Casboult, who converted without trouble.

It could have gotten ugly early. But this week, Melbourne did manage a yelp in response. Only in isolated moments to start with, such as Jack Watts’ first goal after a nice centre for Chris Dawes. Or Carlton debutant Patrick Cripps getting run down by little Demon Jay Kennedy-Harris.

Henderson made it three goals to one after a dash through the middle from Yarran. But it was the Demons who actually finished the first term better, with Dawes slamming one through from outside 50, and Frawley, creating plenty of headaches for Michael Jamison, bringing the Dees back within a kick come quarter-time.

By midway through the second term, that deficit had become a 17-point advantage with a major upset brewing.

Jones, playing a terrific game on Murphy, not only subduing the Carlton skipper but racking up 17 disposals of his own to half-time, got the ball rolling with a superb shot on the run from hard up against the boundary.

Frawley got his second goal with a kick off the ground from the square. And Lynden Dunn took another nice grab at point-blank range to make it five Melbourne goals in a row.

Carlton was in trouble for personnel as well as on the scoreboard, Troy Menzel having been subbed off at quarter-time with a quad injury and Dale Thomas spending a good five minutes down the race getting treatment for a shoulder injury.

Help came in the underrated form of little man David Ellard, who, after a string of Carlton behinds, snapped one on his left foot, then followed it up only a couple of minutes later with an even better effort, beating Dean Terlich in a one-on-one contest against the boundary, recovering better and racing into goal just before a couple of despairing Dees arrived on the scene. The gap was reduced to just three points.

Not for the final time in this game, that prompted a feeling of ‘‘here we go’’. And not for the last occasion, for Carlton, that feeling went nowhere. As is a season already feeling long for Blues fans, yet still only in mid-April. At this rate, how bad could things be by August?