Essendon will be hard-pressed to nullify Sydney’s forward line on Friday night, according to coach Mark Thompson, although he says it has several options for match-ups on Kurt Tippett, Lance Franklin, Sam Reid and Adam Goodes.
He also hinted that struggling utility Jake Carlisle might return to the backline to help the side cope with the Swans’ bevy of tall targets.
“We’re going to just try and do the right match-ups. Dustin [Fletcher] is going to have to play on a tall. We’ve got three or four players down there who can play on talls, I hope they all fire and stop their opponents from getting the ball,” Thompson said.
Franklin’s record against Essendon is outstanding, with the former Hawk having 50 goals to his name from 10 outings against the Bombers. Thompson was full of praise for his ability to reverse his early-season slump.
“I don’t fear Buddy, no, not personally, but I don’t play on him. He gets on little runs of form, he’s obviously there now. A couple of weeks ago everyone was very critical of the club. It’s amazing how you can come out of something so bad and turn it into something so good. They’re at the top of their game right now,” Thompson said.
The Bombers may have their hands full in defence, but also have issues in their forward line. They are averaging fewer than 81 points a game in 2014, 17.4 points down on its offerings of last season. Since round five, that tally has dropped to 64.6 points per game, with only St Kilda and GWS averaging smaller tallies.
Its leading goalkickers are Paul Chapman and Brent Stanton, both of whom have a meagre total of 10, and Chapman won’t line up against the Swans following his suspension. Carlisle is the club’s No.1 target inside forward 50, having been pinpointed 35 times this season, yet has kicked just seven goals.
Club goals record holder Matthew Lloyd said Carlisle was the best tall forward option from a shallow pool. “I think it’s clear he is far more comfortable in defence,” he said.
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