SEETHING St Kilda coach Alan Richardson has admonished his team's midfield brigade for its "lack of response" in the Saints’ 35-point loss to the Western Bulldogs on Saturday night.
Exacerbating matters for lowly St Kilda, ruckman Tom Hickey appears set for a stint on the sidelines after suffering a hamstring tendon injury, despite playing out the game at a hobble in attack.
It was one of the Saints' most disappointing efforts in a disappointing season for a club that had promised so much.
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They appeared set for their fifth victory after scoring the first five goals to lead by 28 points early in the second term at Etihad Stadium, but conceded 14 of the next 16 goals to trail by an impregnable 45 points by three-quarter-time.
On top of clipping his midfielders, Richardson slammed his team in general for being "reckless" with the ball in the second term, allowing the Bulldogs to get back into the contest.
"It was poor tonight. It was a very disappointing performance. It just lacked any sort of response when the Doggies took it to another level," Richardson told reporters post-match.
"The period just after quarter-time we were really reckless with the footy, almost went too quick and lost momentum. But you go in the sheds at half-time still in front.
"But halfway through the third quarter we just did not respond to the way they performed at centre bounces – they just got on top as a midfield group – and when I talk about disappointing, that's what I'm talking about. That's just unacceptable.
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"Sebby Ross (40 possessions and three goals) was a lone hand, really.
"You're not going to win any game of footy when you've got one midfielder playing."
Hickey's injury and subsequent inability to play in the ruck hurt the Saints, but Richardson said his midfield group tended to become "way too reactive" without a competitive ruckman.
"There were some challenges with personnel in the end, but you can still compete," Richardson insisted.
The Saints coach was at a loss to explain his team's lack of fight.
"I don't know the reason but I know the solution will be to challenge those players strongly and continue to drive them to improve and grow as leaders," he said.
"They need to know that whether you're in at stoppage, whether you're in contest, you have a responsibility to compete and be aggressive and to be strong and to be clean under pressure, doesn't matter who you are.
"Part of that will be done on the track but part of that needs to be real conviction of attitude.
"They'll need to look really strongly at their own performance to make sure they do something about it."