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Grounded Saints looking to take flight

Christopher Nice  August 10, 2018 10:17 AM

The Saints have the chance to cripple Essendon's finals chances when the two sides meet on Friday night. - St Kilda Saints,Essendon Bombers

The Saints have the chance to cripple Essendon's finals chances when the two sides meet on Friday night.

Ending Essendon’s season will be on the agenda on Friday night, with St Kilda intent on bringing its three-game losing streak to a close.

While the Bombers’ take-off into the top-eight has been temporarily aborted thanks to last week’s loss against Hawthorn, a win against the Saints would keep their slim finals chances alive.

John Worsfold’s men have won eight of the last 11 matches to rectify their poor start to 2018.

Speed has long been a factor of the Bombers, with their lively run often tearing through opposition midfields.

READ: AFL Preview Bombers vs Saints

Adam Saad has exemplified their ability to break lines best, with his dash off half-back the launching pad for Essendon’s attacks.

Jack Steven is one of the few to rival Saad’s speed, and off the back of a quiet outing against the Bulldogs, the three-time Trevor Barker Award winner will be fixed on piecing together an influential performance.

If history is anything to go by, Steven will be in for a busy evening, with the star Saint averaging 35 touches against Essendon in their past four encounters.

WATCH: Team Selection (Round 21)

But most menacing remains the midfield of Dyson Heppell, Zach Merrett and Devon Smith, with each enjoying arguably career-best seasons.

Smith leads the league for tackles (161) and has been prolific at his new home, while Heppell and Merrett are on top of Essendon’s contested possession count (414) and have been consistent all year.

St Kilda will see its seventh debutant of 2018 in Ben Paton, with the gifted utility poised to recreate his impressive VFL form.

Paton has made a strong case for selection all year and will make his debut after being listed as an emergency ten times this season.

READ: Paton earns debut

Lewis Pierce will also come back in, bearing the mantle of number one ruck in the absences of Tom Hickey and Billy Longer.

The second-gamer will face a monumental challenge in Tom Bellchambers, whose average of 33 hit-outs and ability to cover the ground has given Essendon a telling advantage through the midfield.

With Cale Hooker equally versatile at either end of the ground and Michael Hurley just as solid in defence, the Bombers undoubtedly have the stocks to keep its season afloat.

St Kilda’s year may be nearly over, Essendon’s still hangs in the balance.

And the Saints will be doing everything they can to end it.

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