Fremantle coach Ross Lyon says his team “ticked a lot of boxes” in Saturday night’s fighting loss to Essendon at Patersons Stadium, adding improvement would come with key players set to return next week.

After building a 17-point lead late in the third quarter on the back of a strong midfield performance, Fremantle conceded six unanswered goals to lose by 24 points against the top-four Bombers.

Lyon was optimistic key players Stephen Hill (ankle) and Zac Dawson (knee) would be available for next Saturday’s clash with Collingwood at the MCG, while Hayden Ballantyne returns from suspension.

He said Saturday night’s fourth-quarter fadeout was not as disappointing as other 30-minute lapses that have cost his team this season.

“No one’s more disappointed than the playing group and myself at the minute – we’re not sort of glowing in defeat here, we’re really hurting,” the coach said on Saturday night.

“But we know there’s a lot to learn and I don’t think anyone could question our effort.

“You can sort of lose and have gone forward. In a lot of senses, particularly to three-quarter time, we ticked a lot of boxes, particularly about movement of the ball and our competing and how we want to structure up.

“To put that in with the other second quarters, this was significantly different, different issues … they (Essendon) are top three for attack and defence in every category.”

Fremantle could have moved back into the top eight with a win on Saturday night, but it was comprehensively outplayed after three-quarter time.

Lyon said his team had repeatedly kicked the ball back to Bombers coming out of defence and failed to match them on the outside.

“In the end, 16 shots off turnovers they had and seven of those were in the last quarter,” the coach said.

“That just tells you we kicked it to them and they just spread the ball and lived off our turnovers and were really slick with the ball. That really exposed us.

“The lesson is when you’re fatigued and you’re tired, stay organised, spread the ball, make the opposition defend you better than we did you and make them chase you, because that’s what they did to us.”

Lyon said Fremantle had no significant injuries out of the match. Forwards Chris Mayne and Greg Broughton collided in the fourth quarter and were helped from the ground, but the pair appeared fine post-match.

Midfielder Nick Lower had 30 disposals and eight clearances in his first game for the season, and Lyon said he “really stood up” against Essendon’s strong on-ball division.

The coach said his midfield should be strengthened in the coming weeks.

“Games are won and lost primarily in the midfield, so we’re aiming to build an elite midfield,” he said.

“Clearly there’s a few on the track that we’d like to add and (David) Mundy and (Michael) Barlow are building to best fitness.

“Clearly we’d like to have (Nat) Fyfe, Hill and (Anthony) Morabito in there as well.

“The big picture is we know where we’re heading and we deal with what we’ve got at the minute and I thought we gave great effort.”

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