AFL live scores, blog: Western Bulldogs v Melbourne
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The September dreams of two teams will go on the line on Friday night football. Join us for AFL live scores and a blog of the Western Bulldogs v Melbourne game at Etihad Stadium from 7.30pm (AEST) tonight.
Melbourne has been the Jekyll and Hyde of the AFL competition this season. 13 games into their year and the Dees have an inconsistent record. They have won six, lost six and drawn one.
The Demons don’t do things by half (except, of course, for their round one draw with Sydney).
They boast a whopping average winning margin of 57 points in 2011, but mirroring that statistic is an average losing margin of seven goals.
For much of the season the Dees have struggled with consistency, with a massive win often followed by a massive disappointment.
But in the last month Melbourne has shown very good signs. Wins against Essendon, Fremantle and Richmond, sandwiching a humiliating loss to premiers Collingwood, has given followers of the Dees reason to believe Dean Bailey’s men have exorcised their demons.
But before Melbourne can be hailed a likely finals participant, one more test must be passed: they must put a stop to a 10 game losing run at Docklands.
The Demons have been taken to pieces at the inner-city venue, managing to lose all their matches at Etihad Stadium since the beginning of 2008 by a total of 421 points.
But against the 5-8 Western Bulldogs they have been presented with a perfect opportunity to end that streak.
Rodney Eade’s future at the kennel hasn’t come under much scrutiny in the last two weeks because the Dogs have managed to beat Adelaide and Gold Coast in that time.
Those wins has seen the Western Bulldogs scramble their way to 12th on the ladder and it is safe to say that if a win isn’t had tonight, the preliminary finalists from the last three seasons will officially bow out of the premiership race.
A win, on the other hand, catapults the Bullies into the thick of things.
They will move within one game of the eight, have three consecutive wins of the board and, along with at least five teams outside of the top eight, be in the race for a finals spot.
It might not be a blockbuster but the stakes could not be higher on Friday night football and it makes for a salivating contest.
Both these teams have been forced to play without some of their guns in recent times.
The Dogs will again be without Brian Lake, while Ryan Hargrave and Justin Sherman (for much-publicised reasons) won’t take part.
Their semi-revival has coincided with a return to form of key midfielders Ryan Griffen and Matthew Boyd, while Brownlow Medallist Adam Cooney has begun to again show glimpses of his best.
Melbourne has become accustomed to playing without the likes of Aaron Davey, Jack Grimes and Luke Tapscott, and again those three miss.
But the prospect of a match-fit Mark Jamar, who will play his second game after spending time on the sidelines with an injury, will bring smiles to the faces of Demons fans.
Dees fans will also be buoyed by the fact that they have troubled the Dogs in their last two encounters.
Against a team destined for the top four, the Dees were unlucky to go down in their last encounter with the Western Bulldogs when camouflaged umpires (wearing pink for Women’s round) controversially played a big part in the Bullies’ match-winning goal.
The Demons’ struggles at the ground have been well cited but the Dogs haven’t used the closed confines of Etihad anywhere near as clinically as what many have become accustomed to seeing from the red, white and blue in recent years.
The Western Bulldogs have managed to work their way to a 4-3 record at their home ground in 2011 but the fact that all bar one of their wins this season has come at Etihad indicates it is still their favourite place to play.
I am going to tip Melbourne to win tonight because I think they are beginning to the play some inspired football. The Dees have been inconsistent but have managed to beat most of the teams in the bottom half of the ladder (6-1 record in 2011).
While their record at Etihad is poor, they have shown signs in their two games at the venue to indicate they are capable of winning this one.
Melbourne’s pressure last week was the best it has been in the Bailey era so if they can bring that intensity again, they really should be winning. The Dees will nab this one by 17 points.
HEAD TO HEAD: Western Bulldogs 69 wins, Melbourne 83 wins, one draw
LAST TIME: Western Bulldogs 10.10 (70) d Melbourne 9.12 (66), round 7, 2010 at the MCG
LAST FIVE: Western Bulldogs 4, Melbourne 1
SINCE 2000: Western Bulldogs 9, Melbourne 10
BETTING: Western Bulldogs $2, Melbourne $1.80
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