The Crows rose to sixth on the AFL ladder after downing North Melbourne by 33 points last night – their fifth consecutive win.
But while first-year head coach Pyke says confidence is growing, he’s refusing to countenance a coveted top-four spot.
“The next target for us is to try and put ourselves in a spot to qualify for finals and it really is week-to-week, to be honest,” Pyke said post-game.
“We have got an 11-day break into [playing] Melbourne and they are playing some good strong footy so there’s no easy games in this comp, I have learnt that very quickly.
“But that said, the guys are in a good space, they’re playing some good team footy and they’re building with confidence each week.
“We are playing some good strong footy and tonight was another step forward for us in that journey.”
Adelaide’s win over North was marred by woeful goalkicking – they finished 12.28 (100) to North’s 10.7 (67).
The Crows’ first scoring shot was an ominous portent for the night ahead – a miraculous checkside from Rory Atkins was celebrated as a goal but a belated score review revealed it had been touched off the boot.
“Potentially we could have won by further if we had kicked more accurately but we got there in the end,” Pyke said.
“You always worry about that (inaccurate goalkicking)… but I felt the way the game was being played and the flow of the game, it was coming more into our half and I felt that would eventually lead to goals.”
While conditions were damp and blustery, Pyke said other factors were at play.
“It’s a combination of the pressure and some of our set shots were clearly not at the [required] level,” he said.
“Some of that was our doing and some of that was the pressure of the game.
“Some of it was where we had shots from as well. We had shots from out wide, you’re going to miss you’re share from out there.”
Captain Taylor Walker, Eddie Betts, Matt Crouch and Richard Douglas each booted two goals for Adelaide as the Kangaroos’ mid-season stutters continued. North’s polarising forward Lindsay Thomas kicked three majors, including a gift from a comical Crows turnover in defence and a goal of the year contender with a checkside punt pinned on the boundary line. Key forward Ben Brown booted two.
But the Roos were overwhelmed in the final quarter after Adelaide led by just six points at three quarter-time, with onballer Matt Crouch (32 disposals) and rising star Rory Atkins (21 touches, one goal) prominent.
Till that point, the home side had failed to capitalise on their dominance, kicking 3.8 to 1.2 in the first quarter before a crowd of 37,890 – the lowest for the Crows at Adelaide Oval, with many spectators scared off by forecast thunderstorms – which didn’t eventuate.
The misses proved costly in the second stanza when North found fluency.
The Kangaroos, with Jack Ziebell (24 disposals) and Ben Cunnington (26 touches) influential, booted five goals to one to take a four-point advantage into halftime.
The finals aspirants then went toe-to-toe in the third quarter, with Adelaide goalsneak Betts booting two of Adelaide’s four goals to help his side to a 8.18 to 9.6 lead at the last change.
The Crows then powered to a ninth win of the season – one less than North, who lost utility Farren Ray to concussion in the opening term.
North Melbourne had copped a “double-whammy” from AFL scheduling, entering the fixture after consecutive six-day breaks, while Adelaide were refreshed after their bye last weekend.
But Kangaroos coach Brad Scott was adamant it was no excuse for their fourth defeat in five outings.
The difference in conditioning appeared decisive in the last term when the Crows kicked four goals to one – and had 14 scoring shots to two.
“We have had consecutive six-day breaks but we think six days is enough time to recover between games,” Scott said.
“I think probably the bigger challenge is what sort of break has the opposition had as well, so that is probably the double-whammy there… but you saw the footy that was played in the first half and you wouldn’t think either team were either a bit flat after a bye or a bit jaded based on a short recovery.
“I don’t think it had an influence on the outcome of the game or the way the game was played.”
Scott said mathematics prevented the AFL adopting a system where teams rested from a bye then play other teams also coming off a rest.
“The fixture is impossible to sort out. The mathematics just don’t work,” he said.
“But we knew the challenges we were going to face back in November so there’s no excuse on the preparation … it’s just the Crows were too good.”
Scott refused to further flame the controversy over his $30,000 fine for alleging umpire bias against Lindsay Thomas after last Friday night’s loss to Hawthorn. The Ross were also fined $50,000.
Asked how he he had coped, Scott replied: “I’m fine.”
“When the AFL issued their sanction, we immediately put out a press release saying we accept the sanction and we move on … we won’t comment any further,” he said.
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