Harford encouraged by Blues’ start

AFTER being “disappointed” with his side’s effort against Collingwood the week before, Carlton coach Daniel Harford was more optimistic in his summation of the Blues’ narrow one-point win over Essendon on the weekend. The side made the fans very nervous in the final stages of the match as the Bombers slotted three goals in the last quarter, including a late behind to draw within a point, but the Blues held on for dear life to record a 5.2 (32) to 4.7 (31) victory at ETU Stadium.

Harford said while the Blues “fell away significantly” in the last quarter, he was relieved to bank the four points and was encouraged by Carlton’s first three quarters in the win.

Four points are pretty important this time of year,” he said. “First couple of weeks you want to get on the board, we’ve done this. I thought for the first three quarters we deserved to be the team that walked away with the four points. We kind of fell away significantly in the last quarter in a couple of areas. In the end you’re better off learning lessons with four points in the bank rather than not.”

In the season opener 10 days earlier, Carlton went down by 18 points, recording just the three scoring shots on that night. Against the Bombers yesterday, the Blues were able to top that by half-time, with Darcy Vescio proving the spark. They booted three of their side’s five goals, to be the key match-winner in the tight contest.

“Darce is one of those players you’ve just got to defend, and defend really tightly,” Harford said. “They’re so talented when the ball is on the deck or in the air, it doesn’t really matter. They’re more than capable of any situation and to see them dominate that first half like they did was brilliant, and to get some reward for effort I think helps, and not just for them but for our team as well, when Darcy is doing things our team lifts there’s no doubt about that, so it was really, really nice to see Darce back in form today.”

Alongside Vescio, Harford said the entire leadership group stood up, particularly with the game on the line late and the Bombers storming into contention. In particularly he praised skipper Kerryn Peterson who had a new role on the wing.

“I think all of our leaders did a great job,” Harford said. “Kez did a hell of a job on the wing, a new role for her which was great. Darcy’s goals and impact forward were magnificent. Jess Dal Pos I thought was huge in the forward half the way she lead that unit for us and her pressure at ground level. So all of our leaders I thought were fabulous.”

When asked post-match if Peterson would be destined for a more permanent role on the wing, Harford was unsure. He said it would depend on the opposition and matchups required, but was pleased by having the option.

“I think it’s just a bit of flexibility for her and for us,” Peterson said. “If we’ve got good matchups that can work behind the ball then we can free Kez up a bit. She reads the ball so well she gets back and helps, she moves forward really aggressively as well and makes great decisions and can lead the contest work too, so there’s a lot to like about it. I dunno if it’s going to be every week, but it’s nice to have up our sleeve.”

After a successful debut by Eastern Ranges talent Mia Austin in Round 1, she was joined by ex-Murray Bushrangers midfielder Keeley Skepper inside 50. In speaking about Skepper’s debut, Harford said he was impressed by her energy and tackling pressure, with the pair adding something different inside 50.

“I thought Skep was magnificent,” Harford said. “She’s a really energetic young player and to see her get involved so early, she had a couple of touches early which I think settled her nerves a little bit and then to be able to go back and kick goals when she needed to was pretty significant as well.

“And her tackling pressure, her and Mia Austin, two really young players, Skep in her first game, Mia in her second game, their forward 50 tackle pressure was enormous. I think we had 19 or 20 forward 50 tackles, we had four last week, so it’s just a total different dynamic through our game.”

Though the Blues did have some heart-in-mouth moments late, Harford was pleased Carlton was able to get the game on its own terms in the first three quarters to set up the win.

“We were really disappointed with our performance against the Pies, Harford said. “We didn’t really feel that we showed the correct account of ourselves in terms of the way we want to play our footy. Credit to the opposition that night they were really good and restricted us a bit but we went into our shells a bit and weren’t able to just explode into the game we wanted to play.”

“We were really disappointed and that was the focus, just trying to get back onto a style and a way of playing that represents what we are. We had much more of that in the first three quarters today.”

Carlton hosts Port Adelaide on Sunday, September 11 from 12:10pm at Ikon Park to try and make it two consecutive wins against expansion sides.

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