Desperate Blues pose AFL threat to Dogs

Luke Beveridge's Bulldogs have made a solid start to 2019 but must maintain composure.
Luke Beveridge's Bulldogs have made a solid start to 2019 but must maintain composure.

Western Bulldogs coach Luke Beveridge has put the onus on his players to improve their ball use or risk gifting Carlton their first AFL win of the season.

Sunday's clash at Marvel Stadium comes at a time when the blowtorch is firmly on the desperate Blues and fourth-year coach Brendon Bolton.

Since round 14 in 2017, the Blues have compiled just three wins and 33 losses - a dire record that has left Bolton at risk of facing the axe at season's end.

The Bulldogs have made a promising start and would be sitting unbeaten if not for tight losses to Gold Coast and Collingwood.

But the Dogs' lack of composure in critical moments has been cause for concern and proved particularly costly in the loss to the Magpies.

"We're tiptoeing through games where we're allowing the opposition significant momentum swings by really blatant turnover and skill error at times," Beveridge said on Thursday.

"We got ran down three times in open field last week. We know how lifting that is from a team perspective when a player does that.

"Let's bring the same kind of application against a team we need to respect and minimise those times when you give opposition those momentum swings, skill or otherwise, and we'll give ourselves every chance."

Sunday's clash with the Blues sets up the mouth-watering prospect of a head-to-head showdown between midfield guns Marcus Bontempelli and Patrick Cripps.

Carlton skipper Cripps has been in typically brilliant form while Bontempelli appears to be back to his best after a somewhat quiet 2018.

"His amount of involvement in the game, defensively he's been terrific as well," Beveridge said.

"That's the challenge for those prolific midfielders, what are they doing for you when they haven't got the ball. He's just had a really rounded four performances.

"He knows there's some things he can shave off week to week and get more productivity forward of centre at times, which we're all working on.

"He's had an enormous start and he's one of the reasons why we're extremely competitive. We just need that even performance across the 22 every week."

The Bulldogs will hand debuts to two first-year draftees in midfielder Will Hayes and defender Lachie Young.

Australian Associated Press