MELBOURNE coach Simon Goodwin isn't concerned by the Demons' scoring drop-off, with his side falling short of the Western Bulldogs in Saturday night's top-of-the-ladder clash.
Melbourne registered its lowest first-half score of the season and finished with nine goals for the game as the Dogs recorded a 20-point win.
DEES v DOGS Full match coverage and stats
It was the fourth time in their past six games the Demons have kicked nine goals or less and will see them finish the round with likely the second-lowest score tally of clubs inside the top-eight. They have averaged 69 points a game since beating Brisbane in round 12.
But Goodwin said he didn't believe it was a major issue as his side handed over first position on the ladder to the Bulldogs.
"It's really about maximising opportunity and being efficient when you need to. Clearly we had our chances tonight to kick a bigger score, there's no question about that," Goodwin said.
"I'm not worried one bit. Our belief is still really strong in the way we play. They kicked six goals from their forward-50 stoppages, and normally in a game it's one-to-two, so that's a big differential and it's an anomaly.
"We sit here confident. Would we like to score more? Of course we would. But it wasn't a major issue. We had our chances tonight."
Melbourne has won just two of its past six games as it prepares to return to the finals for the first time since 2018, but Goodwin was pleased with his side's performance against the Bulldogs and said the Dees weren't far from their best.
"I think we're pretty close. As a footy club we're not far away. There was a lot to like tonight. We didn't get the result and I'm sure our supporters would be disappointed but there was enough in the game to indicate we're still well on track," he said.
"We're certainly not going to jump at shadows."
Meanwhile, the Bulldogs will be bolstered by the immediate return of Josh Dunkley next week after the premiership midfield completes his mandatory isolation after visiting a tier one COVID-19 exposure site.
Coach Luke Beveridge said the gun ball-winner would be back at training Thursday and he would be ready to face Adelaide next week despite being away for this block.
"He's got a treadmill, he's got a watt bike, he's got all his weights set up, he's got a net to kick, he's got everything he needs, he's got a basketball court, he's doing his agility. He's probably training harder than his teammates, so he might come in more prepared than everyone else," Beveridge said.
"He was pretty solid against Gold Coast (in round 18) and he's had that week of disappointment but now he'll be fresh again, so he'll be fine."
The Dogs could also recall Easton Wood after he returned in a scratch match from an ankle injury, with the club to lose Alex Keath with a hamstring strain. Keath's setback is also set to see Josh Schache remain in defence after his impressive display against the Demons.
Schache was added to the Dogs' line-up and played a pivotal role against Melbourne's trio of tall forwards, with Beveridge calling him "a first-choice defender" in coming weeks.
"He's probably learned the defensive craft from playing against his teammates in pre-seasons and over his journey. He gets to the right spots, his positioning is where we want it to be and I couldn't be any more rapt for Josh tonight," he said.
"It's a new chapter for him [with] that versatility we can use in his game and it becomes even more critical with Alex going down."