Essendon coach James Hird says the Bombers need a strong performance against St Kilda to stamp themselves as genuine AFL title contenders.
The Bombers and Saints clash at Etihad Stadium on Sunday afternoon, with question marks on the ability of both teams to finish off a game.
Essendon haven’t won a fourth quarter this season, while the Saints have also started their matches well before running out of steam.
Hird wasn’t bothered by their final quarter fade-outs and felt a win in the last period wasn’t far away.
He said that with two wins and two losses to open the season, Essendon needed to make a statement against their 15th-placed opponents.
“At two and two we know where our season is,” Hird said on Friday.
“We know that if we want to be a potential finalist it’s a game we have to play well in.”
He conceded the absence of Saints captain Nick Riewoldt and veteran Leigh Montagna through injury would help their case.
Last season St Kilda upset the Bombers with Riewoldt kicking five goals and Montagna collecting 31 disposals.
Hird gave his team’s defence the thumbs up but felt they needed work in attack, which he hoped playing under the roof at Etihad would allow for after some wet games had hampered their scoring, including a six-goal return in the Anzac Day loss to Collingwood.
“We’re keen to score more but there’s a balance between defence and attack and we’re always been trying to teach defence and we think we’ve got that right,” he said.
“Now we just need to score a little bit more.
“Some dry weather will help.”
Hird said veteran forward Paul Chapman could miss two weeks with a groin injury, that would also see him miss the clash with ladder leaders Fremantle.
Kyle Langford is set to make his debut against the Saints, with Hird predicting him to make an impact.
The 18-year-old half-forward was recruited with pick No.17 from the Northern Knights in last year’s national draft.
“All Essendon supporters will see a classy player, who wins the football for himself and knows how to use it,” Hird said.