By Peter Stephenson
A rain-soaked Esther Park saw Barkerettes (third) take on Fitzroy City (sixth) in round 8 of Women’s State 3 East. There were two changes to the side that won 4-1 at Manningham, with Aria Dhariwal and Peta Richardson replaced by Charlotte McCullough and Zahra Goodman, who was set to make her debut. So lots of youngsters in the home side, and both sides were in good form, so a good match was in prospect.
Fitzroy began well, and an early corner from the left led to a curling shot over the bar in a warning to Barkerettes. On four minutes, good interplay between Amy D’Ortenzio and Lisa Walsh saw the former have a shot saved, but shortly afterwards, Barkers keeper Ashleigh Fraraccio was called into action to save on her line as Fitzroy ramped up the pressure. Not for long though, as in the sixth minute D’Ortenzio setup Walsh for a shot which was saved. Clearly, Fitzroy were a different side to the one we had battered twice last season.
Barkers again had their keeper to thank on nine minutes, when Fitzroy crossed from the left, but Fraraccio rushed out to beat the forward to the ball. Four minutes later, she appeared to have the ball kicked out of her hands as she made a diving save, but the Barkers’ goal remained intact. Alas not for long as on 21 minutes, Jessica Marks gave Fitzroy the lead.
A recurring theme recently has been that Barkerettes go a goal down and then wake up. So it proved again. Six minutes after conceding, Walsh hit a shot into the Esther Crescent front gardens as Barkers warmed to their task. Just on the half hour, Barkers won a corner on the right. As usual, this was well-delivered by Kirsten Murray into the centre, then a shot was blocked, but the ball ran to Jordyn Clausen at the far post, and she scored from close range to make it 1-1 – game on.
You got the feeling that once Barkers had a goal they would take control. Three minutes later, Murray hit a long ball from the right, which Walsh had to retrieve, but she hit the ball in low for D’Ortenzio to score from close range to make it 2-1 Barkers. Last week she became the first player in club history to score 200 goals and wasted no time embarking on her third century.
Two minutes before the interval, Barkers broke quickly when Charlotte McCullough found D’Ortenzio, who set Walsh up for a shot which the Fitzroy keeper saved with her feet. Half-time Mooroolbark 2-1 Fitzroy City in a stirring contest.
Barkers continued in the ascendancy as the second half began. Nine minutes in, Anjali Lobo almost lobbed the keeper, who just managed to keep the ball out. Barkers then went to sleep at the back. Fitzroy forced them into errors and once more it was Fraraccio to the rescue. Just before the hour Fitzroy hit Barkers on the counterattack and shot wide from close range. Then on 61 minutes a Fitzroy corner wasn’t cleared, but the shot went high and wide.
Barkers needed another goal to feel just a bit more secure. With 16 minutes to go, they attacked right through the middle of the park, with Phoenix Vinh passing to Gracie Touliatos, who put an incisive ball through to Walsh. She timed her run perfectly and was onside as she outpaced her opponents before slipping the ball beyond the keeper into the far corner for 3-1.
Game over? No – this is Barkers and we like to make it interesting. With only five minutes left, Barkers failed repeatedly to clear their lines, and the ball ran to Melanie Dean, who scored from point-blank range to make it 3-2.
It was kitchen sink time for Fitzroy, and they broke through again at the last minute. The forward put the ball past Fraraccio, but it hit the post in a massive let-off for Barkers. Maybe we were fortunate in the end to win, but swings and roundabouts – we didn’t get our just desserts at Malvern.
Well it was interesting tonight to watch some of the newer members of the side. Hannah Lee worked her socks off, and Vinh lacks neither confidence nor ability. There were others too, giving cause for optimism for the future. Barkerettes move to second, pending Clifton hill’s result. The biggest task of the season looms next week – away to runaway league leaders Banyule City.