NATHAN Buckley has never seen Collingwood as disconnected as it was in Saturday night's drubbing at the hands of Melbourne.
On a horror night for the Magpies, luckless Ben Reid strained another hamstring and key forward Brody Mihocek was taken to hospital for scans on his neck after a sickening second-quarter collision.
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Buckley said the 56-point loss to the Demons was a concern, culminating a five-to-six-week period where "nothing's coming easy".
"We were off tonight, that's as disconnected as we've been," Buckley said.
"We knew this was an important game for us and we dropped it.
"It puts us in amongst it a little bit and we've got some work to do.
"We know we're capable of a lot better … and we're going to keep working towards being better."
Collingwood matched Melbourne for inside 50s and contested footy but never threatened, dropping a game that leaves it vulnerable in seventh position.
Buckley said the Demons were cleaner and harder on the inside and more efficient when they got in space.
"We just didn't play a connected brand of football," he said.
"Nothing's coming easy. The last five or six weeks have been inconsistent in the way we've gone about it.
"Everything looks like it's a little bit harder and the reason it looks like that is because it is.
"We haven't got our heads in the sand."
Mihocek's collision with Aaron vanderBerg in the second quarter saw the Magpie stretchered off with a head injury.
"When a bloke like him takes a hit like that and can't get up, it's significant, because he's one of the toughest blokes I've seen play the game," Buckley said.
"He went to hospital for cautionary scans on his neck, but we don't believe there's any major injury out of that as such."
Meanwhile, Melbourne coach Simon Goodwin was all smiles with his team's performance, and there might be further good news with captain Max Gawn on track to return for next week's clash against the Western Bulldogs.
"Max trained this morning and trained strongly," Goodwin said.
"So, all indications are that he’s going to be available next week, but we’ll see how he gets through the whole week.
"He loves to play every game, he’s our captain."
Goodwin said the Demons had progressed nicely through the season – now winning five of their past seven games.
"Our efficiency inside 50 was something that stood out, it’s much improved … we’ve been building over the last couple of weeks," he said.
"I was really rapt with how we defended tonight. Our defenders had a good night aerially and got the job done for us.
"There’s certainly a style of play that’s starting to build for us. We’ve still got a lot of work to do. All we have really done is put ourselves back into position for the season."