Under-siege Bombers look to upset Cats

Jason Phelan
Essendon will be without full-forward Joe Daniher who has a groin injury

No star forward, no star defender, no third-quarter wins, no victories in a month: the eyes of the AFL world will be on Essendon when they take on Geelong at the MCG with their backs against the wall.

The Bombers have been a club under siege since their disappointing season reached a new low with last week's loss to previously winless Carlton.

Full-forward Joe Daniher finally succumbed to a groin injury before that match and, to rub salt in the wound, Michael Hurley suffered a hamstring injury that will see him miss the must-win clash with the Cats.

Embattled coach John Worsfold made five changes to his line-up as he looks to snap a run of four losses.

Darcy Parish and Ben McNiece were dropped from the side that lost to the Blues, while Kobe Mutch (rested) and David Myers (hip) also depart.

Jordan Ridley and Dylan Clarke will make their AFL debuts, while Matt Guelfi, Kyle Langford and Matt Dea return.

The Cats regained spearhead Tom Hawkins after his contentious one-game ban for touching an umpire but lost exciting youngster Esava Ratugolea to injury.

Essendon head into round nine in 15th spot on the ladder with a 2-6 record, with Geelong third with five wins.

The statistics overwhelmingly favour Chris Scott's side.

Of greatest concern for Bombers fans is their inability to win a single third quarter this season.

A close second is their failure to deliver the ball inside attacking 50.

The Dons are dead last for inside 50s in the competition (averaging just over 48 a game), while Geelong have successfully tightened the screws in defence after leaking goals early in the season.

The Cats conceded an average of 102 points in the first three games of the season but that figure has dropped to just under 54 points over the past five matches.

"In the first half of the season we weren't as good as we have been over the past month defensively," star midfielder Patrick Dangerfield told SEN.

"That's been a real focus of ours over the last month and we've really improved in that area."