Despite a strong first half, Essendon VFL has fallen to Footscray to 34 points in their curtain raiser at Marvel Stadium on Friday.

For many of the Bombers’ young list, Friday marked their first time playing in the environment of an AFL stadium, and they came out firing as a result.

The Dons exploded early, booting the first three goals of the contest in quick succession to establish an early lead - Vice-Captain Jackson Hately booting two of those.

The aerial presence of Nate Caddy up front generated rapid opportunities for the Bombers when they broke from the middle, and the return of Dylan Shiel to the line-up provided added physicality at centre clearances.

Leading 32-28 at the first break, the Bombers ebbed and flowed in the second term as the game opened up, with each side edging out to two-goal leads at different stages of the quarter.

Elijah Tsatas was a prime mover in the midfield prior to being rested as planned for the second half, finishing with 15 touches on limited minutes.

Hately was another standout in the opening half, heading into the main break with 14 touches and three goals to his name.

After half-time, the Bulldogs’ experience came to the fore, booting five goals to one in the third term to break away to a convincing lead.

Despite the defensive efforts of Lewis Hayes (22 disposals, 10 marks), the Dogs locked the ball in their attacking half to good effect, starving the Dons of any attacking opportunities late in the third quarter.

In the fourth term, the Bombers regained some momentum in their play, young forward Oskar Smartt bobbing up with four goals in a breakout performance under the lights.

The gelling of the Bombers' young list is showing signs of promise, but they’ll be keen to translate that into a consistent four-quarter display and improve from their lapses.

The Dons take on Southport back on home deck at the NEC Hangar next Saturday.

BULLDOGS     4.4     7.9     12.15    16.18   (114)
ESSENDON      5.2     8.4     9.6     12.8  (80)

Smartt 4, Hately 3, Peris, O’Neill, Gray, Eckersley, Caddy

Hately, Hayes, Smartt, Bryan, O’Neill, Shiel