Richardson demands sharper Saints’ focus

To no one’s surprise, least of all St Kilda’s forwards, coach Alan Richardson set aside time for set shots at goal in preparations for the AFL clash against Essendon.

The Saints’ sharpshooting lessons attempted to eradicate the wayward finishing that cost them so dearly in a 40-point loss to a sharper Gold Coast last week.

“It’s fair to say we had some goalkicking practice. We kicked 1.13 from set shots, including two out on the full (last week),” Richardson said.

“We had nine more scoring shots in the second half and, when you’re away and you’ve had a sloppy start, you need to make the most of your opportunities and we clearly didn’t do that.”

At the other end of the ground, a leaky Saints backline will be stiffened by the return of experienced defender Sean Dempster after right knee surgery that has kept him out since round 11.

“He is a really important player. He has played really strong footy for a long time and he’s versatile,” Richardson said.

“He can play on talls, he can play on smalls, he can go into the midfield and play as a defensive player there, (but) we’ll use him down back.”

And the inclusion of young pair Nathan Wright and Daniel McKenzie provides more grunt and run for Sunday’s game at Etihad Stadium.

Richardson is banking on a rebound to the positive run-and-carry style that delivered a 46-point win against the Bombers at the same venue seven weeks ago.

“We know Essendon’s good footy is really positive,” he said.

“We were only marginally up at halftime the last time we played them.

“You look at that game, but really it’s more about us and the way we want to play. There were some areas that weren’t strong (against the Suns) and that’s where we’ll focus.”

Bombers coach John Worsfold made six changes to the side that suffered a blowout loss to West Coast last week, taking their losing streak to 12 games.

Sam Michael, Patrick Ambrose, Shaun McKernan, Kyle Langford, Jayden Laverde and Conor McKenna come into the side, while David Zaharakis (suspension), Jason Ashby (omitted), Matthew Leuenberger (knee), Jackson Merrett (omitted), Mathew Stokes (groin) and Mark Jamar (suspension) departed.

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