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Hird pleas for improved Bombers defence
Robert Grant
10:11 AEST Thu Jul 26 2012

Essendon will focus on an improved defence with their top four hopes resting on the result of Friday night's clash with AFL finals contender Hawthorn.

The Bombers have dropped two of their past three games by a total of 138 points while the Hawks are soaring with a string of seven straight victories.

Essendon will limp into the game after an embarrassing loss to Geelong while Hawthorn will be boosted after their win over fellow power side Collingwood.

Bombers coach James Hird said defending would be an important factor if they were to turn their recent form around - and not just from the back line.

"We've turned the ball over in all areas, which makes the ground very hard to defend against good teams," Hird said.

"Our perceived pressure and our ability to defend at the contests has dropped off and it's left our backs exposed.

"I don't think it's necessarily a back six thing, I think it's all across the ground, a desire to defend hasn't been as good the last four weeks as it was probably the first half of the year."

Meanwhile, the Bombers' injury plight continues with Stewart Crameri and David Myers the latest players to report problems.

Crameri has hamstring tightness and Myers suffered a knock to his calf.

Hird said the club could well leave a decision on their selection until the last moment but said with Crameri in doubt and set to be tested again just before the game it was important that midfielder Scott Gumbleton stepped up.

"We need a really good contest from Scott tomorrow night," Hird said.

"Their back line has been on fire and they are great at rebounding the ball out so Scott will have to be at his best."