Brett Ratten has slammed St Kilda’s misfiring midfield rather than blame a forward group who could only register four goals in a 51-point loss to Sydney at the SCG.
The Saints’ score looked set to be more humbling on Saturday with only two majors on the board deep into the final term until they added a couple of consolation goals when the sting had gone out of the contest.
A reliance on Max King has been a concern in recent weeks as the Saints form has crumbled since the bye and with their spearhead shut down there were few other options inside their forward 50.
King went goalless for the first time since round 11 last year, ending with eight disposals and four marks but Saints coach Ratten refused to criticise the 21-year-old or his fellow forwards.
“Good luck to Max. Kick the ball like that to anyone, he could be Tony Lockett, Jason Dunstall, you’ve got no chance,” Ratten said.
“I felt for him tonight. I thought he had to wear the brunt of our ball movement.
“The way that we moved the ball would’ve been pretty frustrating and he’s only a third-year, fourth-year player. But we kicked the ball so badly to him.
“It’s not about him. Let’s put Cooper Sharman there or Tim Membrey. It doesn’t matter who it is, we didn’t kick the ball well to anyone, so I think most of the forwards would be frustrated with our delivery.
“There were kicks that were just giving our forwards no chance at all.”
The Saints were sitting in the top four when they entered the bye with an 8-3 record but have lost their three matches since then to Brisbane, Essendon and now Sydney.
The form slump has seen the Saints tumble out of the top eight with a crucial run of games against fellow finals contenders Carlton, Fremantle and Western Bulldogs to come in the next three weeks.
Ratten identified defensive efforts as one of several strengths that have been lost since the bye and led to a dramatic turnaround in their results, but focused on ball use as the main issue against the Swans.
“Our ball use really hurt us. Our ability to find a target inside 50 or use the ball to advantage was probably at the lowest it has been for a while,” Ratten said.
“We had 12 clanger kicks in our attacking mid. We’re just giving it back whether it’s through our feet, over-handballing or the way that we tackled.
“You don’t get a chance to put pressure on the opposition and that hurts you.
“Looking back at what we did in the front half, since the bye we haven’t captured that and that’s the challenge for us.”