Last-gasp loss adds to Bombers frustration

Jason Phelan
Essendon suffered a heartbreaking one-point AFL loss to Carlton Blues at the MCG

Essendon came within centimetres of emerging from a week of drama, disruption and isolation following Conor McKenna's positive COVID-19 test with a stunning AFL victory.

But Jacob Townsend's long-range set shot in the dying seconds against Carlton at the MCG on Saturday night was bundled over the line for a rushed behind, handing the Bombers a gut-wrenching 7.10 (52) to 8.3 (51) loss.

Essendon had led by 12 points in the final term in their first game in 13 days after last week's round-three clash against Melbourne was sensationally postponed following McKenna's positive test.

To rub salt in the wound, Zach Merrett will come in for match review scrutiny after he whacked Jack Silvagni in the back with a clenched fist that sent the Blues forward to hospital.

It was a frustrating end to an unsettling week for the club.

John Worsfold said that it was difficult to determine what effect an isolation period that kept his players from the club until Wednesday had had.

"I'm no expert, I don't know how you would possibly measure it, but obviously it's not ideal to have your players locked away at home from Saturday afternoon through to Tuesday afternoon," Worsfold said.

"I thought overall their attitude to come out of that and support Conor and James (Stewart) and still try to focus on preparing for the game was really good.

"I don't know how that affects you overall in terms of how they felt running around out there.

"Did they physically feel on top of the game or did they feel not quite right, physically and mentally?

"I don't know.

"We showed plenty of fight, there's no doubt, in terms of giving ourselves a chance to win the game against a team that's not too dissimilar to us in terms of where they're at."

Club officials and teammates have been in regular contact with McKenna and Stewart, who was deemed to be the only close contact of the Irishman's also required to self-isolate for two weeks.

"They go through periods where they get a bit ... I'm not sure what the word is, but it's hard work being locked in a room for this amount of time," Worsfold said.

"But they've been generally pretty good.

"Maybe because it was game day they were feeling the pinch a bit more.

"But it's on the home stretch now for them."

Merrett swung his left arm at Silvagni's back as he kicked the ball early in the first quarter.

Grimacing in pain, Silvagni immediately went to the bench for assessment and a club official confirmed he had been taken to hospital by ambulance shortly before halftime.