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Justin Longmuir looks to keep top-two Fremantle Dockers’ fast start rolling

FREMANTLE is off to its best start since 2015 and sits second on the ladder, but coach Justin Longmuir insists the Dockers won’t be dining out on their fast start to the season.

Having thumped a hapless Essendon by 48 points on Sunday at Marvel Stadium, thanks largely to a career-best seven goal haul by Matt Taberner, the Dockers are 4-1 and only the unbeaten Melbourne sits above them.

Not since 2015, when Fremantle went unbeaten through their first nine games and made a preliminary final, have the Dockers opened a campaign in such good shape.

BOMBERS v DOCKERS Full match coverage and stats

But ahead of a round six clash against Carlton (4-1) on Saturday night at Optus Stadium, that means little to Longmuir.

“It’s good recognition for the work we’ve put in; we’ve got to re-focus, do the reps and get ready to again,” Longmuir said.

“It feels good (being second), but I don’t really look at the ladder, we’ve still got plenty to work on in our game, all our players understand that.

“We’ve got good pressure for spots, no-one’s getting comfortable with the way we’re playing or individual form.

“We just need to keep it going, keep it rolling.”

Longmuir said his side’s ability to lift the intensity after half-time was the catalyst for snapping a five-game losing streak against Essendon.

The Dockers kicked 10 goals to three after the main break and kept the Bombers goalless in the third term.

“I thought our pressure lifted (after half-time),” he said. “I thought our pressure in the first half… we created some opportunities in front of goal through our pressure, but I didn’t think it was as good as it was last week.”

Longmuir added that the Dockers’ ability to run out games is pleasing him.

“We’ve done a lot more work over the pre-season than we have in previous pre-seasons, our players are fitter, availability is higher, and we’re starting to get match fitness now,” he explained.

And he was full of praise for Taberner, who, prior to Sunday, had never kicked more than five goals in a match.

“I’m really proud of him because I don’t think we’ve got anyone that works harder on their game, he’s always doing extras, sometimes to his own detriment,” said Longmuir.

“He’s always working on his goalkicking, and for him to kick so accurately today… it was really needed and a great reward for the effort he’s put in.”

Essendon, meanwhile, has just one win ahead of a potentially season-defining clash against Collingwood on Monday.

Bombers coach Ben Rutten admits his side needs to find form quickly.

“There’s always a sense of urgency,” Rutten said.

“The best thing we can do is knuckle down, review this game hard, really have some good reflections about what we did well but also understand why we got what we got in the second half. That’s going to be key to our improvement in the short-term and in the long-term.”

Essendon is likely to be without stars Zach Merrett (ankle) and Jake Stringer (hamstring) for the traditional ANZAC Day blockbuster, while Andrew Phillips is almost certain to miss after he was subbed out on Sunday due to a hamstring complaint.

“Stringer and Merrett [are] probably less likely for next week,” Rutten said.

Kaine Baldwin kicked five goals in Essendon’s VFL loss to Port Melbourne, while Anthony McDonald-Tipungwuti had just the four touches (and kicked one goal).

Rutten was disappointed with the Bombers’ performance in the second half.

Fremantle seemingly scored as it pleased, as Essendon conceded 97-plus points for the fifth time this season.

“It felt like we were well and truly in the game, probably couldn’t quite cash in on some opportunities that we created pretty well,” he said.

“It’s a bit disappointing we weren’t able to step up and get in the arm wrestle that was required at that time.”

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