STAWELL Westlift Warriors weren't able to reach their goal of finishing the Wimmera Football League season on a winning note, but they did give themselves every chance with a competitive game against arch rival Ararat on Saturday.
Several weeks ago, Stawell was aware it was out of finals contention, but made a team goal to defeat a finals bound team.
Coach Brad Cassidy was the main force behind the goal.
"We knew we were better than our results," Cassidy said.
"We didn't get there in the end, but these last four weeks show how far we have come."
With a young inexperienced team featuring seven junior players, it was always expected to take time to gel.
A big crowd turned out to Central Park on Saturday to see if Stawell could achieve its goal.
For the younger players it was a big occasion with so much on the line.
"It was tough for the younger players," Cassidy said.
"It is a great experience playing in such a big game."
Warriors had a less than ideal start to the game when Liam Nuske had Stawell's first chance in front of goal and sprayed it.
Ararat then went on to lead the quarter by 20 points. With that Stawell faced the challenge of mounting a comeback.
Stawell was able to kick three goals to one in the second term to bring the contest back within a kick.
The defensive pressure of Todd Matthews and Jackson Dark meant Ararat had to work harder.
"The defensive end is playing good football," Cassidy said.
"There is still work to be done."
In the second half the tension increased, but the game was far more balanced.
Going into the last change Warriors were down by eight points with an injury to Chris Ford resulting in a lack of rotations.
Ford went down with a hamstring injury and Stawell started to look fatigued. Their chance of an upset was becoming bleak.
Scoring had almost dried up completely, with both Ararat and Stawell kicking one goal each for the term.
Stawell just failed to get over the line 10.7.67 to Ararat 11.11.77.
Best players for Stawell were Todd Matthews, Tom Eckel, Jackson Dark, Aidan Potter, Cam Kimber and David Morris.
Matthews, after a slow start to the year, finished well and gained best on ground honours for Stawell twice in the last three weeks.
The change in form has come with his change of position as he looks to have settled well in defence.
Other players who were impressive were Shane Field and Jamie Bach.
Field played the majority of the game in the ruck, but was able to have an influence around the ground.