Michael Lynch August 12, 2012
Daniel Rich of the Lions looks to handball. Photo: Getty Images
A FAINT blue flickering flame of hope still burns for Carlton, its 36-point victory over Brisbane Lions last night keeping finals, however optimistically, still on the agenda at Visy Park. Results, to some extent, went the way of Brett Ratten's men last night. Although St Kilda was never likely to lose to Melbourne, Adelaide's victory over Fremantle keeps the door ajar slightly for the chasing pack battling for a spot in the nether regions of the eight.
Carlton had to make sure it grasped its chance to stay in touch last night, and it did so, even if it took an age to get going against a Lions side whose season was realistically finished some time ago. A third quarter in which the Blues outgunned their northern rivals seven goals to one effectively decided this game.
If North Melbourne , which has an easier (on paper, at least) run in than the others scrapping for a spot in the eight, defeat the Bombers today in what is a huge game for both clubs, the Blues will feel that their destiny remains, in some small way, in their own hands.
They are due to face an injury ravaged Essendon next week and, bolstered by the return of their talismanic skipper Chris Judd, they will surely fancy their chances if the Bombers happen to go down this evening.
With its final two fixtures against Gold Coast and a potential humdinger against the Saints, Carlton will cling to the hope that it can rescue something from the near wreckage of a season that began with such promise when they smashed Collingwood by 10 goals in round three and was elevated to early season premiership favourite.
But there is no margin for error, especially as Carlton's percentage is lower than all those sides scrambling for places in the lower reaches of the top eight.
What they needed was a goal deluge last night, but it wasn't forthcoming. In fact, for much of the first quarter it didn't look as though the Blues would trouble the scorers at all - a frustrating period for coach Brett Ratten.
''We had our opportunities to score. Our ball use going inside 50 was terrible,'' he said after the game, bemoaning the free kicks and failure to take marks in that period that ''let us down a little bit in the first quarter''.
Although Carlton's destiny is no longer completely in its own hands, Ratten said his side ''would not stop trying to make the finals. Regardless if we can or can't, we need to make sure from a respect point of view that we try to win games and challenge our players.''
Judd is set to come back this week and Ratten said that the captain would be primed and ready for the crucial run home.
''He's worked exceptionally hard behind the scenes and done a fair bit of combat physical training. He won't be short of a gallop.''
With spring just around the corner, Carlton more than ever needs its main man to be ready to deliver first up when he returns to the track.