Port Adelaide coach Ken Hinkley says his players have stopped believing, with their finals credentials taking a hammering in a four-point loss to Carlton.
The Blues were last on the ladder going into Saturday night’s clash but outplayed their more-fancied opponents for large patches of the entertaining MCG contest.
After playing off in a preliminary final last season, the loss dropped the Power to 10th with a 5-7 record that has their bid to reach this year’s finals on thin ice.
“It’s a team not believing,” Hinkley said.
“It’s a team that’s unsure what’s going to happen to them next. They’ve definitely lost their composure and their confidence with the ball in hand.
“They’re playing a little bit spooked unfortunately and that comes when you’re second guessing how you’re going to play.”
After trailing by 29 in the last quarter, Port had the chance to steal the match after a stirring late onslaught slashed the margin to four.
There was a controversial moment with 70 seconds left when Sam Colquhoun’s mark 35m from goal in a city-end pocket was disallowed.
Colquhoun wasn’t able to take a possibly match-winning shot because the umpire further afield had called the ball touched after Kade Simpson’s despairing lunge at Brad Ebert’s pass.
“It’s disappointing isn’t it?” Hinkley said.
“Umpires do their absolute best to get it right, I’m pretty confident about that, and they try their absolute best.”
Hinkley felt not much had gone right for his side on a day when umpire Brendan Hosking was forced to throw the ball up in the second quarter after he marked Hamish Hartlett’s free kick on the boundary, with Carlton scoring a goal soon after the restart.
“We had a couple today that were a little bit strange,” Hinkley said.
“Things like that happen but I reckon they happen a little bit when you’re in the position that we’re in.
“You make a little bit of your own luck and sometimes luck goes against you when you don’t deserve the luck.”
Port were widely tipped to finish in the top four this season but Hinkley admitted they weren’t handling the pressure of expectation.
“I would say clearly that’s one of the issues. The pressure keeps building,” he said.
“Layer upon layer upon layer it keeps building up and it gets really heavy.”
Hinkley said there was no easy fix to Port’s issues other than to keep working hard, which he was confident would happen when they returned from the bye.
Important Power onballer Robbie Gray was taken from the field on a stretcher after a heavy knock in a Bryce Gibbs tackle.
He was subbed out and missed the second half but Hinkley said he was fine with what was a precautionary move.