CARLTON coach Michael Voss wants his side to "stay present" ahead of a nightmare run home after the Blues’ bid to secure a first finals appearance since 2013 hit a speed bump with Saturday night's loss to Adelaide.
They now face Brisbane (Gabba), Melbourne (MCG) and Collingwood (MCG) in the last three rounds, having spurned a gilt-edged opportunity to practically seal a finals spot with a 29-point loss to Adelaide.
Carlton remains seventh, two wins ahead of ninth-placed Western Bulldogs with 10th-placed Richmond a further two points back but with a game in hand against Brisbane on Sunday.
CROWS V BLUES Full match details and stats
The Blues are unlikely to start favourites for any of their remaining three games and will be looking over their shoulders, especially if the Tigers win on Sunday, but Voss played down any talk about their run home.
"We haven’t changed with the way we've gone about it the whole year," Voss said. "What we've done really well is stay present.
"There's always an appreciation when you come to the back end of the year that there's consequences of every win or loss. That situation doesn’t change for us.
"We're in with a shot and we're going to go full roar at it. We've got to first unpack this one and get to work."
Voss pointed to the contest as the reason behind his side's defeat, losing contested possessions 155-141 while tackles were even at 69-69.
"They just had a greater desire than us," he said. "There's not too many games we've walked away this year and lost the ground ball number that we had today.
"There's not too many games with contested possession where we've been on the negative side of things. That effort, workrate, outnumber, (and) winning contest has got to be the cornerstone of your game every time you play.
"Pleasingly we've been able to achieve that for the majority of the year but tonight we were certainly outworked. That puts a lot of stress on other parts of your game.
"It's been a hallmark of our game and we weren’t able to bring it."
Voss said Corey Durdin (shoulder), Nic Newman (knee) and Matthew Kennedy (concussion) would all be assessed during the week after being forced out of the game.
The Blues coach also acknowledged Ben Keays' forward role on All-Australian candidate Adam Saad was one of many "critical battles" his side lost, with the Crows star booting three goals and having a game-high 11 score involvements and four goal assists.
"Clearly if a player kicks three goals then he's been able to make an impact," Voss said.
"I could go through the list and look at the critical battles and we just weren’t able to win them for the night. They kept turning up to them and outnumbered well."
Adelaide coach Matthew Nicks was glowing in his praise of Keays for his role, keeping Saad to only 388 metres gained from his 26 touches.
"We know Saad is an outstanding player and very influential on games," Nicks said.
"Keaysy has a lot of weapons, a lot of things he does well, one of them is discipline around a role. Tonight he had a slightly more important role ahead of the ball and he played it to perfection."
Nicks specifically hailed the impacts of Darcy Fogarty (two goals), Wayne Milera (19 disposals and eight score involvements) and second-gamer Josh Worrell (12 intercepts), along with Brodie Smith who had a game-high 1,019 metres gained from 37 touches.
"We could see it from the bench, he was in a rare zone tonight," Nicks said about Smith.
"I could go through the whole 22, there wasn’t one who didn’t play his role tonight. It was a team effort tonight."
The victory snapped Adelaide's four-game losing run and Nicks said it was welcome nourishment for a side sitting 15th with a 6-13 record.
"It's been quite tough for the last month," Nicks said. "We've been chipping away and we've been right around the mark and not able to get it done. To get a win is reward for everyone."
Nicks added: "It was one of those games where it was just relentless (pressure) all four quarters. It's one of those ones we'll put up on a wall somewhere for a young group developing.
"It's a real good chance for our members to enjoy it and embrace it, because we saw it tonight."