GEELONG hopes Esava Ratugolea's expected return from injury next week will help solve the forward line issues that were exposed in its loss to the Western Bulldogs on Saturday night.

The Cats lost their second game in three weeks when they were overrun by the Dogs at Marvel Stadium.

They gave up a 10-point lead at three-quarter time to lose by 16, and are now just a single win clear on top of the ladder ahead of second-placed West Coast.

With little help up forward Tom Hawkins was often outnumbered. Picture: AFL Photos

Geelong managed just seven goals for the game, and even shifted defender Harry Taylor into attack late in the contest after Jack Henry had to move into the backline.  

Coach Chris Scott said losing key defender Jake Kolodjashnij (concussion) early in the game meant the Cats had to change their structure for the rest of the contest.

DOGS STUN CATS Full match coverage and stats

"We'd prefer to have Ratugolea in the team and it looks as if he'll be available next week, which is a good sign for us," Scott said post-game.

"We think Henry can play that role for us, but he had to move back and we were shuffling a little bit.

"But I think the really good teams historically find a way and I think we do have enough flexibility in our team to cover for those issues. But even if we had him, we had 44 inside-50s and you have to be really, really efficient with such a low number."

Spearhead Tom Hawkins booted two goals but had little influence on the night, with opposing power forward Aaron Naughton proving the difference with four majors.

Ratugolea hasn't played since round 12 as he recovers from a hamstring strain, but should be fine to face the Saints next week at GMHBA Stadium.

The Cats felt in control of the contest early, but Scott said the impact of being without Kolodjashnij was evident.

WATCH Chris Scott's full post-match media conference

"The significance was real. We had some plans going in that we had to change unfortunately. But that's the nature of the game," he said.

"If you knew you were going to lose a key defender going in then you'd have different plans. I'm not saying it's the reason we lost, but it changed things."

Scott admitted the Cats looked flat at different stages of the contest, but credited the Bulldogs for maintaining their defensive set-up throughout the game. It was the Cats' lowest score since their elimination final disaster against Melbourne last year.

"They defended us well," he said.

"The nature of the games here at Marvel is that if you don't take your chances inside-50 then the ball can bounce out really quickly, so that was another part of our game that has been good this year but wasn't as good tonight."