ESSENDON will consider playing a second ruckman to help ease its key forward woes, as coach John Worsfold bristled at questions over the Bombers' attacking structure.
The Bombers were thrashed by the Western Bulldogs last week and managed only seven goals – their fewest of the season.
They are missing injured spearheads Jake Stringer (ankle) and Joe Daniher (groin/calf), while an option to push Cale Hooker into the forward 50 has been lost after the key defender strained a calf last week and will miss at least a fortnight.
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It has left Shaun McKernan to shoulder the load as the marking target, with Worsfold denying recruit Jacob Townsend was playing as a key forward despite match-ups with Carlton's Jacob Weitering, Collingwood's Darcy Moore and North Melbourne's Robbie Tarrant in recent weeks, who he has largely nullified.
"Overall, we didn't get the ball forward enough last week and we had a lot of shallow entries, so I'm really confident in the guys getting the job done when we get enough football in there and perform better across the whole field," Worsfold said.
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"When our stoppages are working better and when our backs are transitioning better and we get it inside-50, we've shown that we can score well. I won't be blaming just the forwards for last week.
"It was the team that didn't perform up to the level but in saying that we're constantly searching at the moment for what our best line-up is up forward.
"We're working out how we think it's going to look longer term because we'd like to start working towards that, but some of these injuries have challenged that."
The Bombers will discuss bringing in key forward James Stewart for his first game since 2018 and recalling backman Aaron Francis to be stationed in attack for their trip to face Adelaide on Sunday, with Worsfold 'refuting' the view Townsend is being used as a key-position player close to goal.
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The 2017 Richmond premiership player was recruited to the club at the end of last year with the idea to be used as a big-bodied midfielder but has been played as a forward due to the Bombers' injury-hit line-up.
He has played every game and kicked six goals this year and been a valuable pick-up, playing above his height against some of the competition’s best key defenders.
"Suffice to say we don't call [Townsend] a key forward. He plays a role for us within our forward structure," Worsfold said.
"If a tall defender comes and stands on…I remember Dustin Fletcher playing on (former West Coast forward) Phil Matera but we didn't label Phil Matera as a key forward.
"You may do in your terminology but really that's just semantics how you want to call it."
Despite Worsfold not categorising Townsend as a 'key forward', Champion Data statistics show the Bombers have targeted him more than any other player inside-50.
They have kicked to Townsend 27 times as a marking forward, putting him ahead of second-placed McKernan (21 times).
Tom Bellchambers and potential debutant Sam Draper are also in the mix to come into the Bombers' line-up to partner ruckman Andrew Phillips and play as an extra marking target close to goal, while versatile defender Martin Gleeson, who missed last week's loss to the Dogs due to a corked hamstring, is available.