HOWLONG rammed another nail into Jindera’s finals coffin with a hard-fought 24-point win at Howlong on Saturday.
Both teams were playing for finals survival but the points again eluded the Bulldogs, leaving their finals hopes hanging by a thread after the 10.10 (70) to 6.10 (46) defeat.
But while the loss has left the Bulldogs vulnerable, the fifth-placed Spiders hopes of a finals berth are intact with their 6-4-1 record.
The sixth-placed Bulldogs face ladder leaders Osborne, Holbrook, Brock-Burrum, Henty, CDHBU, Lockhart and Rand-Walbundrie in the run home.
They need to win four of those to stay in contention — a big ask in their present form.
In another blow, coach Josh Walker looks set to miss the rest of the season with complications from a fractured kneecap suffered in round 2.
Howlong has been buoyed by the signing of tough nut Tim Brook (Wodonga Raiders) and James Eastoe (Ainslie) before the clearance deadline.
Brook slotted into the midfield while Eastoe provided plenty of rebound from halfback.
Spiders coach Joel Price, who coached from the sidelines after suffering concussion last week, rated Saturday’s win as the team’s best for the season.
“I was rapt — it was probably our best performance of the year in a match where there was plenty at stake for both clubs,” Price said.
“It was certainly a big game and the four points helps consolidate our spot inside the top six.
“But there are seven matches to play before finals and we have got six wins and a draw.
“I think you are going to need at least 10 wins to be guaranteed of playing finals.
“We realise there is still a lot of work to be done.”
The Spiders will be without defender Chris Van Zanten (broken ankle) and Travis Bosse (broken jaw) for the rest of the season.
And reserves coach Ian Maiden has also left the club and joined Wodonga Raiders.
The Spiders defence, led by Rohan Davies and Cam Curlis, was outstanding in the victory, especially in the second half when it restricted the Bulldogs to two goals.
Azzi medallist Peter Hancock, Beau Walker, Steve Fouracre and Brook were prominent in the win.
In other matches, Holbrook notched its fourth straight win with a 33-point win over Billabong Crows while Brock-Burrum defeated Murray Magpies by 43 points.
Josh Warren-Marmo booted seven goals in Rand-Walbundrie’s 22-point win over Lockhart.
Henty enjoyed a 53-point win over Walla.