- from afl.com.au
ST KILDA showed enough in three quarters against North Melbourne on Friday night to convince Alan Richardson it was back on track after losing its identity in a mid-season slump.
Coming off a three-match losing streak, the Saints built a 42-point lead at Etihad Stadium on Friday night but squandered that in a poor final term to win a scrappy clash by 17 points.
While concerned about his team's inaccuracy in front of goal, Richardson said the 6-6 Saints got back to playing aggressive football and took a step in the right direction.
"Our focus was not necessarily about getting our season back on track, (but) that was an outcome of playing good footy," Richardson said.
"That was our focus. What does our good footy look like? What does it mean for you as an individual? I reckon they had real clarity around that.
"We didn't get it done in the last quarter, but there were three quarters of positive footy, the way we want to play our footy.
"I reckon they'll get belief from that and we look forward to playing the Gold Coast next week, taking on the opposition with four quarters of that sort of footy.
Richardson said there was "no doubt" the Saints needed to improve, but he was proud of his group's dare following a poor month that had set them adrift from the top eight.
"It's challenging for a group when you have high expectations of yourself. You get to 5-3 and you're in a reasonably positive position and then you lose three in a row," the coach said.
"There's a bye in amongst that so it's a month where you haven't had a win, so I was really proud of them that they were able to play in that sort of manner.
"We'll learn from the last quarter. It was all clearance, we got smashed in clearances … we're disappointed with that.
"But really the focus was when the game was up for grabs we played the sort of footy we want to play and we played it for three quarters."
Conversion was the biggest issue out of Friday night for the Saints after kicking 1.7 in the third quarter when a percentage-boosting win was up for grabs.
Former skipper Nick Riewoldt got through his first game back after missing two matches with a knee complaint, covering plenty of ground and finishing with 11 marks.
Richardson praised fellow veteran Leigh Montagna, who was among the team's best off half-back with 28 possessions and five rebound 50s, pushing forward dangerously and taking seven marks.
"'Joey' was really positive. He's calling himself Jeremy McGovern the way he marked the ball down back," Richardson said of the 33-year-old, who had been stung by criticism of his recent form.
"He has such a positive influence on our group, not only with the way he plays, but the way he conducts himself around our footy club.
"His performance tonight was really strong but he's a bit more than that to our group."