By Lance Jenkinson
Without three of its key players, Altona dug deep for a memorable one-point win over local rivals Spotswood in the Western Region Football League division 1 at Grant Reserve on Saturday.
The Vikings entered the game without key position player Luke Goetz and ever-reliable midfielders Jordan Robbins and Lee Spiteri, but while they were undermanned, they certainly did not underwhelm.
Vikings coach Saade Ghazi lauded the gritty team effort in a victory that saw the Vikings return to the top of the ladder.
“We were a bit short in the midfield today, we had a few out, so to win against a really good quality team and club was good,” Ghazi said.
“Personnel wise, we didn’t have any VFL boys, we had Jordy Robbins out, Lee Spiteri out, a late withdrawal with the flu this morning, so it was a really good win.
“We had a couple of guys playing their second and third games of senior footy.”
With two of their own prime movers out, Altona placed added importance on shutting down two of Spotswood’s most influential link players.
Ghazi pinpointed David Iaccarino and Charlie Nastasi as two Woodsmen who needed to be held in check for his side to emerge victorious.
Heath Rafferty was assigned a run-with role on Iaccarino, while Shae Killey kept a close eye on Nastasi.
Both of the defensive role players were superb for Altona, with Iaccarino, who Ghazi describes as “one of the premier players in the comp”, down on his usual output in the midfield, and Nastasi, who Ghazi praised as “very dangerous”, kept goal-less for the afternoon.
No player had a bigger impact on the ground than Altona ruckman Sean Tighe.
Tighe had an enthralling ruck duel with Spotswood big man Zach Del Grosso and then followed up to have a significant impact both at the clearances and around the ground.
Spending over 90% of game time in the ruck, Tighe’s influence helped Altona cover the absence of Goetz.
“I thought he competed really well,” Ghazi said.
“He’s a big boy, nearly six-foot-six, and he’s a very smart footballer.
“He played in a premiership side with Williamstown in 2015 and he was on an AFL list as well, so he’s got good experience.
“He’s had time to get his body right and he’s got that right now.”
Steven Kennedy relished the slippery conditions.
The Altona onballer is one of the most balanced players in the competition for his ability to win the hard ball but also spread from a pack.
“Steven is just a really consistent player, you know what you’re going to get,” Ghazi said.
“He’s really good inside, he’s tough, but he’s also good on the outside.
“Today was really designed for inside footy and he was very solid. He’s a bloody warrior.”
Altona gained the advantage in a low scoring match with a four-goal-to-nil second quarter.
Then it was the Vikings defensive capabilities on show in the second half as they failed to register a goal after half-time, but still managed to win.
Ghazi’s side has moved a game clear at the top, but that will come under immediate threat when the Vikings face third-placed Deer Park at John McLeod Oval on Saturday.
With a relatively soft draw in the final five home-and-away games after the clash with Deer Park, it is not a stretch to say that top spot will be Altona’s to lose if they can beat Deer Park.
It was Spotswood’s first loss in over two months.
The Woodsmen will be keen to atone when they face Hoppers Crossing in a blockbuster at McLean Reserve on Saturday.
Hoppers will head to Spotswood full of confidence though after rolling local rivals Werribee Districts by 26 points.
In other division 1 games, Sunshine enjoyed a 44-point win over Point Cook, St Albans got the better of Caroline Springs by 21 points and Deer Park thrashed Albion by 161.
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