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Match report: Bombers' flight to finals continues

Highlights: Essendon v St Kilda The Bombers and Saints clash in round 21
Anthony McDonald-Tipungwuti kicked five goals - AFL,Essendon Bombers,St Kilda Saints
Anthony McDonald-Tipungwuti kicked five goals

A BATTERED Essendon has powered to a 43-point victory and kept its slim finals hopes alive against St Kilda on Friday night at Etihad Stadium despite having no fit players on the bench in the final term.

Brendon Goddard was the first to be ruled out after hyperextending his right knee when he landed awkwardly in a marking contest during the first quarter. The 33-year-old's worries will be compounded with his contract expiring at season's end.

Meanwhile, Saints defender Nathan Brown is set to come under scrutiny from Match Review Officer Michael Christian after a late bump on Adam Saad, leaving the speedy Bomber concussed and needing to be stretchered off the ground, not long after the Goddard injury.

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They were far from the only issues, with Orazio Fantasia (left hamstring) and Cale Hooker (right knee) not taking to the field in the last term.

St Kilda started competitively, but a disappointing second half saw it fall away in a performance that will heap more pressure on coach Alan Richardson as Essendon won, 18.14 (122) to 11.13 (79).

The Bombers boosted their percentage by 2.5 points but almost certainly need to win their remaining matches to have any chance in September calculations.

In a fiery game that saw multiple scuffles break out, Essendon had captain Dyson Heppell and silky left-footer Zach Merrett in form, while Devon Smith's effort and intensity were obvious.

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Bombers coach John Worsfold was impressed with how his side reacted to being down on numbers.

"The players were wonderful, the way they understood what they had to do and how we wanted the game to be played as we slowly lost players," Worsfold said.

"They played different roles and credit to them all (with) the way they understood those roles and performed them.

"I was really pleased with the maturity they showed as a group to adjust to the way the game needed to be played and play a different style."

Nathan Freeman slotted the first goal of his career in the second quarter, 1,724 days after he was drafted, much to the delight of his teammates.

However, that was followed by five-straight Essendon goals in a flurry before the main break that would have had Richardson tearing his hair out as the Bombers split the contest wide open.

"The competitive stuff, by and large, the guys are still absolutely up for the fight. I'm not questioning that. There were a couple of periods in the game that we could have been better," Richardson said.

"The fans I reckon would see that we shot ourselves in the foot, particularly when we had some momentum tonight, with our use … they were pretty easy options at times and we didn't get that done."

Anthony McDonald-Tipungwuti slotted the final two of that term, before he went on to finish with a career-high five straight.

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In his 100th game, Seb Ross tried hard in the midfield and racked up 43 disposals, while Jack Steele continued his impressive second half of the season.

Ruckman Lewis Pierce lined up in his first match for more than two years and showed he is worth persisting with, while debutant Ben Paton was relatively quiet, but like Freeman, managed to boot his first career goal.

A swinging right arm from Hooker on Daniel McKenzie in the third term will likely be looked at by Christian.

Essendon: A hyperextended right knee for Goddard in the first quarter ruled him out of the game. Not long after that, Saad was on the receiving end of a big bump from Brown and was stretchered off with concussion. In the second term, Kyle Langford seemed to cop a nasty left shoulder injury but he returned to the ground, while Cale Hooker went down to the rooms in the third quarter with a right knee complaint and didn't return. Blistering forward Orazio Fantasia had a left hamstring issue and finished the match with ice on the muscle. 

St Kilda: Backman Bailey Rice had his right thumb assessed in the third term but played the game out.

Essendon has a huge clash next Friday night as it clings on to its faint finals hopes, taking on reigning premiers Richmond at the MCG, where the Tigers have won 19 straight games. Meanwhile, St Kilda will be at Etihad Stadium the following night as it aims to turn around its form and disrupt Hawthorn's finals plans.

ESSENDON  5.3   10.8   14.13   18.14 (122)
ST KILDA     4.4    6.8     7.10   11.13 (79)        

Essendon: McDonald-Tipungwuti 5, Fantasia 2, Stringer 2, Myers 2, Langford 2, Heppell, Francis, Hooker, McKenna, Smith
St Kilda: Billings 2, Gresham 2, Lonie 2, Freeman, Newnes, Long, Marshall, Paton 

Essendon: McDonald-Tipungwuti, Merrett, McGrath, McKenna, Myers, Heppell
St Kilda: Ross, Steele, Armitage, Billings 

Essendon: Goddard (right knee), Saad (concussion), Hooker (right knee), Fantasia (left hamstring), Langford (left shoulder)
St Kilda: Nil 

Reports: Nil

Umpires: Deboy, Pannell, Mollison

Official crowd: 37,483 at Etihad Stadium