ST KILDA "shot itself in the foot" with poor ball use in its narrow loss to the Western Bulldogs, coach Alan Richardson says.
The Saints won most of the key indicators despite the six-point loss, including contested possessions (135 to 114) and inside 50s (55 to 44). They also had four more scoring shots.
But their kicking efficiency hurt them greatly as they failed to pull off a second come-from-behind victory over the Dogs in seven weeks.
"Good kicking is good footy and we certainly shot ourselves in the foot," Richardson said.
"We won three quarters of footy but had a poor 10 minutes after half-time.
"So there's no doubt that we gave ourselves an opportunity to win.
"They're always disappointing."
Bulldogs half-back Easton Wood proved a menace for the Saints as he took 13 marks and moved the ball out of defence six times.
In comparison, the Saints' sloppiness by foot cost them dearly with the Dogs able to capitalise on their turnovers.
"It's very hard to defend when you kick it straight to them," Richardson said.
"Some of our entries were poor. Wood was outstanding in the role he played.
"Collectively, they marked 21 of our kicks. Twelve of those were on our entries and we had a few blokes trying to get it done.
"That was frustrating. He's in good form but turnovers were very costly.
Despite the skill errors, the Saints' effort and pressure was impressive for the majority of the game.
Midfielder David Armitage said while there were aspects of the Saints' performance that indicated they remained on an upward curve, there was no doubt ball use had to become more consistent.
"We turned it over a hell of a lot," Armitage told AFL.com.au.
"We've got to learn from that. We should have kicked a lot more goals, that's basically it.
"We actually are working really hard and we trained probably the best we've ever trained this week with our ball use.
"It's just about doing it under pressure and doing it consistently, and at least with our pressure and contested ball, we're on the right track ... but with ball use, a few blokes just have to go back and work – myself included.
"We're all in it together and we'll get out on the basketball court and on the track when we can and keep continually trying to fix it."
Defender Sam Fisher withdrew from the team on Saturday and was replaced by Luke Delaney, who wasn't a listed emergency.
The Saints made the call to use Delaney, despite the fact it would likely see them encounter a fine this week, because fellow defender Sam Gilbert played with a "bit of a flu".
Fisher, who missed four games with a hamstring injury, hurt his back in unusual circumstances on Saturday morning.
"The old fella just picked up some washing, slipped a disc or did something with his back," Richardson said.
"We won't stop him doing his chores at home but we'll make sure that he gets a bit of rest. We're confident he'll be right [next week]."
Richardson said Jack Billings was also a chance to face Essendon after missing two games with shin soreness.