ESSENDON coach Ben Rutten says the Bombers need to cut out their in-game "lapses" if they're to step up another level.

The Bombers sit 3-6 after their seven-point win over Fremantle - their first victory in a tight game after particularly heartbreaking losses to Hawthorn, Sydney and GWS, with in-game lulls proving costly.

Rutten emphasised the need for consistency ahead of Sunday's must-win clash with last-placed North Melbourne.

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"We need to get our stuff right for four quarters," Rutten told reporters on Friday.

"We've kind of struggled with that at times throughout all of our games, little lapses, and we're trying to iron them out as much as we can.

"We want to make sure we get off to a really good start and maintain that pressure on the opposition as long as we can."

(L-R) Cale Hooker, coach Ben Rutten, and Zach Merrett of the Bombers celebrate after a win during round nine, 2021. Picture: AFL Photos

Rutten said closing out the Fremantle win gave Essendon "belief and confidence" and would hold the Bombers in good stead going forward.

"I've been (largely) pleased with particularly our ability to to stick out the game, compete really hard," he said.

"We've been in some games that we haven't been good enough to win.

"The Freo game was probably a game where they may have had more control of the game for longer - but we were able to find a way to win in the end.

"(It was) a good quality to have and something our group's spoken about - our ability to hang in there when momentum's against us."

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Nik Cox will play after he was deployed as the medical substitute against Fremantle, with Rutten confident the youngster's cameo appearance allowed him to get the reduced workload he needed.

Alec Waterman will return after good VFL form, replacing Devon Smith (hamstring).

Smith is unlikely to be available until after the bye but Rutten was confident Jake Stringer would return "in the next couple of weeks".

Meanwhile Rutten expected talks with in-form midfielder Darcy Parish - who is out of contract at season's end - to "play out as the season rolls on".