Not happy: Mark Thompson watches the game against the Saints on Saturday.

Not happy: Mark Thompson watches the game against the Saints on Saturday. Photo: Getty Images

Leading into Friday's Anzac Day contest against Collingwood, Essendon's players are seemingly at odds with coach Mark Thompson, as the Bombers' bright start to the season quickly fades.

Having been crunched by Fremantle in Perth in round three, with many players shedding weight because of the heat, the Bombers were stunned on Saturday night when they lost to St Kilda by 16 points, leaving them with just two wins from five games.

The Bombers had led by three goals at quarter-time yet were overrun by an organised and disciplined Saints' unit led by skipper Nick Riewoldt and veteran Lenny Hayes.

The defeat prompted Thompson, as club great Matthew Lloyd put it, to ''whack'' his players and fitness staff for failing to prepare properly, declaring the players he coached during his Geelong premiership years would have done more.

''As a club we didn't go in ready - it's a shame, we missed a great opportunity,'' Thompson said.

''I'm not sure how much recovery sessions our boys have done (after the Perth trip). I know that the good players I've had experience with over the years would have done twice as much.

''They would have reported and they would have got more massage and they would have eaten right and slept well and just done everything right, so if it got to that point they could find something to get the team over the line.''

On hearing the comments on Sunday, midfielder Dyson Heppell, held to 17 disposals by Tom Curren, said the players had prepared as best they could.

''Obviously it's a tough situation coming off a really tough week, last week. I certainly put in the hours for recovery this week. I don't think the other boys took it lightly, either,'' he said on the Sunday Footy Show.

''I certainly reckon we recovered well, prepared well for the game, we trained well during the week, we just couldn't execute last night.

''I think the boys will be really keen to put a good week on the track, recover really well. We just can't wait to rip into the Pies next week.''

Lloyd said he was stunned by Thompson's comments.

''I think he (Thompson) is thinking a Bartel, a Scarlett and Selwood and all those guys (at Geelong) would have done more than the Essendon players would. It's a whack for the fitness coach, it's a whack for (Jobe) Watson and the senior players, which I couldn't believe,'' he said.

The Bombers had dealt with a gastro bug that had hit the players in recent weeks but Thompson said that had not been an issue for four days.

A forthright Heppell said the Bombers had to become mentally tougher when dealing with the expectations that come with playing a team they were expected to defeat.

''We do have a poor past of coming into games, the games we are expecting to win and not getting the job done,'' he said.

''I really think it's a mental thing. It's just to do with the attitude and it's certainly something we have to fix and fix fast.''

Having been beaten in contested ball, tackles and clearances, the Bombers must regain their groove in time for Friday's showcase event against the surging Magpies.

They will debate injecting now-fit ruckman Tom Bellchambers for his first match of the season, easing the pressure on Paddy Ryder and providing another marking option inside 50. Key forwards Jake Carlisle and Joe Daniher were goalless on Saturday night.

The Bombers missed the dash of an injured Brendon Goddard (abductor strain) but he is likely to miss another week.

Half-forward Jason Winderlich is likely to return, while tagger Heath Hocking, substituted on Saturday night with a hand injury, is expected to be fit.

''He got stomped on and he's got tight groins. It was just a combination,'' Thompson said.

''He's a very important player. He'll probably play on a (Dane) Swan or a (Scott) Pendlebury, whoever's down there for Collingwood on Friday.''

Magpies defender Nathan Brown returned via the VFL on Saturday from a shoulder injury, and is ready for a senior recall.