ESSENDON won't blame its interrupted lead-in for its last-gasp loss to Carlton on Saturday night, although coach John Worsfold admitted he's unsure of the impact of the uncertain preparation.
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The Bombers' match against Melbourne last Sunday was postponed and Essendon players were forced to self-isolate in their homes from Saturday through to Tuesday after defender Conor McKenna tested positive to COVID-19.
McKenna and teammate James Stewart, who was deemed a close contact of the Irishman, are serving their mandatory 14-day quarantines.
It made for a cramped few days of preparing to face the Blues at the MCG, with the Bombers just falling short in their bid to remain unbeaten – Jacob Townsend's kick for goal that would have won the Bombers the game with seconds to go was touched on the goal line and Carlton claimed a one-point victory.
Worsfold said he was unsure what effect the unprecedented week had on his side.
"I'm no expert, I don't know how you'd possibly measure it, but obviously it's not ideal to have your players locked away at home from Saturday afternoon through to Tuesday afternoon," he said post-game.
"But I thought overall their attitude to come out of that and support Conor and James and still try to focus on preparing for the game was really good.
"I don't know how that affects you overall in terms of how they felt running around out there tonight. Did they feel physically on top of the game? Did they feel not quite right physically and mentally? I don't know."
Essendon drew level with Carlton at three-quarter time and then booted the first two goals of the final quarter to hold a 12-point lead before the Blues fought back to clinch the win.
Carlton’s run of close games (they lost to Melbourne by one point in round two and beat Geelong by two points last week) continued after a brilliant forward showing from Levi Casboult and Mitch McGovern, who teamed up for five goals against the Bombers in a low-scoring affair.
David Cuningham was also excellent in the midfield with 28 disposals, while co-captain Sam Docherty gathered 31 touches in a smart and creative display.
Coach David Teague said the Blues' victory was another example of the developing maturity of his side.
"You've got to win these games and you've got to be in them. Probably for too long we haven't been in those games. It's great that we get there, the boys reckon they're ageing me very quickly (with the tight results)," Teague said.
The Blues' 2-2 start to the season is their best opening month of a campaign since 2012, and having not made the finals since 2013, hopes are starting to build about what Teague's troops could be capable of.
"We've got to play our best footy and that's what we're focusing on each week, but we feel every time we get to a game we can go and compete and win," Teague said.
"I'm not going to put a number on our wins and losses, but we want to hold ourselves to the way we go about it and the way we execute."