Barkers share the points

Geordie Scott squeezed a shot between the keeper and the goal post. Picture: MIKAYLA VAN LOON.

By Peter Stephenson

Cheltenham’s Shipston Reserve saw Mooroolbark Soccer Club’s senior men (equal sixth) travel to Bayside Argonauts (second), hoping to get back on track after a 1-2 loss to Chisholm United.

Coach Paul Burrows made four changes from the Chisholm game, with Ahren Angulo, Max Burrows, Ryan Smith and Jerome Valadon replacing Taylan Hakki, Dan Higgins, Ray Markley and Brett Tronconi. This was the first meeting between the clubs.

Argonauts attacked first and won a free kick in the second minute on the edge of the box. It was driven low to the far post, where keeper Mark Naumowicz punched clear.

Barkers, though, settled quickly and had plenty of possession and territory. On 14 minutes, Smith won the ball in Argonauts’ half and fed Ross Clark, whose shot stung the home keeper’s gloves. In particular, Valadon was working hard, causing problems up front as well as being willing to track back. The next chance saw Barkers force an error in the home defence and the ball fell to Steve Nittoli, who hit a snapshot over.

On the half hour, the home keeper was judged to have caught the ball outside his area. The ensuing free kick was driven into the wall and came to nothing. Two minutes later, the home defence cleared the ball to Nittoli, who hit a screamer destined for the top corner, but the keeper, where others might have athletically tipped the ball over, casually, almost effortlessly, caught the ball.

Nine minutes before the break, Clark crossed from the left for Valadon, whose low shot was deflected to the keeper. Then a Barkers long ball was headed on by Geordie Scott for Valadon, who hit a first-time shot well wide. Half-time: Argonauts 0-0 Barkers, with a very promising half for Barkers against the wind, but nothing to show for it.

Just 30 seconds into the second half, Argonauts almost broke the deadlock as they moved the ball down the left, played the ball inside, and a snapshot forced an excellent reflex save from Naumowicz. Then, all of a sudden, Barkers’ work paid off. The ball was played inside to Scott, who hit a beautifully placed shot from outside the box which squeezed between goalkeeper and post for 1-0 Barkers.

Now Naumowicz’s kicks, with the wind behind him, were probing very deep into home territory, but somehow the Barkers attack couldn’t capitalise on this. On the hour, one such bomb was flicked on by Scott for Valadon, whose shot was deflected by the keeper onto the post, and Clark hit the rebound into the side netting. Argonauts almost made Barkers pay immediately, as they went forward, Barkers backed off, and a shot fizzed past the far post.

Argonauts finally had some momentum and on 67 minutes, a through ball on the right to the byline was cut back to the far post, where a shot was put wide. Then they whipped in a corner from the right to the far post, which Naumowicz punched clear under pressure. Next a great crossfield ball from the left was volleyed wide by a home forward. Argonauts were huffing and puffing, but would they conquer the wind and blow Barkers’ house down?

Well yes they would. With 14 minutes left, they broke down the left wing, cut the ball back beautifully from the byline, and there was Mitch Cooper to tap the ball home to crown a lethal move and make it 1-1.

The final period of the game saw Argonauts put Barkers under siege, yet both sides were going for the win. After such a good start, it was Barkers who would come off the pitch more relieved with a point, while Argonauts’ frustrations boiled over after the final whistle as Liam Mckenna was red-carded. Full-time: Argonauts 1-1 Barkers.