The Northern Blues suffered a nail-biting defeat against Footscray at Ikon Park today.
In a tight contest that saw the lead change five times, it was Footscray that held on to hand Northern a heartbreaking 10.5 (65) to 10.11 (71) loss.
Despite the result, it was a positive day for Carlton-listed players Ciaran Byrne and Patrick Kerr who made their returns from injury unscathed.
On limited game-time, Byrne was able to amass 15 possessions providing his customary dash off half back, while Kerr battled all day to notch up two majors.
Footscray had the Northern defence on the back foot early, with their uncontested ball use giving them an early two-goal head start.
Facing an eight-point deficit at quarter-time, Northern came out strongly after the first break.
A well-read intercept from Kerr to set up fellow forward Harry McKay gave the Blues a narrow lead.
However, the advantage was short-lived, as Footscray responded with three majors in a row to leave Northern with a deficit in the second half.
Much like the second term, Northern started off brightly thanks to captain Tom Wilson and fellow midfielder Sam Fisher notching up their first goals of the game.
Kerr then made it three in a row for his side, helping Northern gain a slender four-point lead into the deciding final quarter.
It was the second time in as many weeks Northern held a four-point lead at the final change: however, this week the result went against them.
Aided with a breeze, Footscray made their move to wrestle the lead back half way through the term and repeat inside 50s had Northern’s back half under continuous pressure.
A late Mullenger-McHugh goal for Footscray from point blank range seemed to seal the fate of Northern deep into game.
However, crafty small Ethan Penrith gave Northern a glimmer of hope with a sensational goal on the run, bridging the margin back to an even kick.
A frenetic end to the match saw both sides trade late goals. Ultimately, it was the Bulldogs who were able to withstand a final forward assault from Northern, handing them a six-point defeat.
Fisher plugged away all day with 29 disposals to go with his second quarter goal, while Darcy Lang fought hard in midfield with 20 disposals of his own.
Northern Blues will now head into a bye week, followed by a return to Ikon Park on Sunday July 15 where they will face Williamstown.
NORTHERN BLUES 2.2 5.3 8.4 10.5 (65)
FOOTSCRAY VFL 3.3 7.5 7.6 10.11 (71)
Northern Blues: Kerr 2, Fisher, Johnston, Lynch, McKay, Naylor, Penrith, Williams, Wilson
Northern Blues: Lobbe, Fisher, Penrith, McKay, Lynch, Byrne