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Nick Bowen  August 13, 2017 12:07 AM

Worsfold: 'Toughen up' John Worsfold forced to defend Joe Daniher's goal celebration
AFL 2017 Round 21 - Essendon v Adelaide

John Worsfold says the Bombers haven't given up on playing finals, despite slipping to 10th on the ladder

ESSENDON has not given up hope of making the finals despite slipping out of the top eight after its 43-point defeat to Adelaide at Etihad Stadium on Saturday night.

The Bombers slipped from eighth to 10th after West Coast defeated Carlton on Saturday after their losing margin against the Crows saw their percentage dip 0.3 points behind Melbourne.

Full match coverage and stats

The Demons can go a game clear of the Bombers with a win over St Kilda at the MCG on Sunday, but so too will the Saints if they win.

It promises to be a fierce contest for the last few places in the eight over the next two weeks. And Worsfold was adamant on Saturday night the Bombers were up for the fight.

Asked in his post-match press conference whether he had given up hope of playing in September, Worsfold said: "No, absolutely not. We're keen on playing well these next two games, learning from today and showing that we want to take our game to the next level."

Five talking points: Essendon v Adelaide

"You can only obviously improve so much in a week, but learning from that and showing that we've learnt from it is what we'll all be looking for."

Worsfold conceded the Bombers were too easy to score against but bristled when it was suggested tightening their defence would be their No.1 priority over the 2018 pre-season, saying they had not given up on rectifying the problem this season.

"We want to keep learning and improving. That's again where we learn from this game. We're aware of it and we'll challenge the players to be better at it next week," he said.

WATCH: Full John Worsfold post-match press conference

Midway through the last quarter of Saturday night's game, Essendon looked to have cut the Crows' lead to 21 points when Anthony McDonald-Tipungwuti pounced on the crumbs created by a Ben Howlett tackle on Luke Brown.

But a free kick was paid against Howlett, who appeared to drive Brown's head into the ground in his tackle, and any remote chance the Dons had of a comeback victory was quashed.

Worsfold said the umpires had been right to penalise Howlett, but was unsure whether the defender could come under MRP scrutiny for his tackle, having not seen a replay.

"It was a free kick from what I saw. I was just glad it wasn't a 50m penalty as well when 'Walla' (McDonald-Tipungwuti) kicked the goal," Worsfold said.

"That was the call, the umpires have got to make that call and I'm not sure what they paid.

"We missed that opportunity, but you can't say that dictates the whole game."

First-year defender Andy McGrath's performance on Crows star Eddie Betts was one of the biggest positives to come out of Saturday night for Essendon.

McGrath held Betts to just seven possessions and a lone behind while racking up 25 possessions and eight marks himself.

Worsfold said it was a "wonderful effort" and endorsed McGrath's claims on this year's NAB AFL Rising Star award.

"I don't get a vote in [the Rising Star award]. Obviously if I had one I know who I would give it to," Worsfold said.

"He's had a wonderful first year and he's matched up on names like Cyril Rioli and Robbie Gray and Eddie Betts now. He played on Eddie I think in the last quarter the last time we played them as well.

"He's going well, so who does vote? I'll put my plug in with them for sure, give them one of those stares like, 'It's got to be McGrath doesn't it? Surely.'"