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Blues set sights on atonement in the west

Date

Jon Pierik

Back in the fold: Andrew Walker will play against Fremantle on Friday.

Back in the fold: Andrew Walker will play against Fremantle on Friday. Photo: Sebastian Costanzo

CARLTON coach Brett Ratten has urged his team not to become football's version of the Big Dipper as the ''hungry'' Blues prepare for what looms as an arm wrestle against Fremantle on Friday night.

The Blues, stung by a bruising defeat against Essendon and without injured duo Andrew Carrazzo (shoulder) and Jeremy Laidler (knee), but with Andrew Walker back in the fold, leave for Perth today determined to atone for a performance where their physicality, or lack of, was questioned.

Essendon great Matthew Lloyd has said the Blues were ''spooked'' by the Bombers' attack on the man and ball on Saturday, reprising memories of the ''Carlton of old''.

Ratten has made it clear that their efforts weren't good enough and need to improve at Patersons Stadium against a Dockers unit that has embraced coach Ross Lyon's hard-nosed and defensive philosophy.

''They [Essendon] were a lot more physical than us. Their physicality compared to ours, there was a fair difference,'' he said.

''We sort of spoke about that, and then we spoke about some of our defensive actions, also our offensive use [of the ball]. We got a few things wrong.

''Teams through a season are going to have ups and downs. Just the way we went down and how far we went down on the weekend in regard to a lot of aspects of our game, offensively and defensively, I thought that was disappointing.

''I expect this group to rebound really quickly and strongly.''

This contest looms as an engrossing defensive battle. Both teams concede an average of 11.2 goals a game - among the best in the competition.

The Blues have an edge in terms of conceding the least number of inside-50s - a league-best 43.5 a game, compared with the Dockers' 45.8 (fourth best), but Fremantle has a clear advantage in stopping scores once the ball is inside its defensive 50-metre zone.

The Blues have conceded a score 51.7 per cent of the time the ball is in their defensive arc; the Dockers just 45.9 per cent.

Ratten says he wants more consistent performances, not a major dropoff in several categories, as was the case on Saturday against the Bombers.

''You don't want to create this up-and-down rollercoaster performance,'' he said.

To that end, he believes the trip west could help galvanise his team. The Blues have won four of their past six matches at Subiaco, so that venue holds no fears.

The absence of Carrazzo, who could miss up to 10 weeks because of a fractured shoulder, means the Blues' match committee has been forced to debate just who should replace him as the No. 1 tagger. Ratten was talking up Aaron Joseph yesterday, while confirming Dennis Armfield would return.

Walker has been desperate to return in recent weeks but the Blues adopted a cautious approach with him as he recovered from a quad injury. He has not played since a pre-season match against Brisbane in Maroochydore when he managed less than a quarter. He was the Blues' leading goalkicker with 56 last season.

Laidler will be out for up to eight weeks after having surgery for the second time on his left knee. He was hurt in the opening minutes against Essendon but was able to play out the game.

Blues football manager Andrew McKay said the injury was a major blow.

"We originally thought he may be a chance to play this week against Fremantle. However, after meeting with the specialist and discussions with the Carlton medical staff, it was decided the operation was necessary to stabilise the knee and ensure he will be fine for the second half of the season,'' McKay said.

Laidler had dislocated the kneecap on the same knee during the NAB Cup but returned ahead of schedule in time for the season opener against Richmond.

Chris Yarran (strained toe) was in a protective boot yesterday and remains in doubt; so too, Ed Curnow (ankle).

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