By Peter Stephenson
A cold windy night at Esther Park saw the return of football, as the second-placed Barkerettes hosted ninth-placed Brunswick Zebras.
The Barkers’ women had won their last five but needed to keep winning to put pressure on runaway league leaders Port Melbourne.
Could the women keep a clean sheet and equal the women’s club record of four in a row?
The wind was so strong that Zebras won the toss and chose to switch round so they could have the wind behind them. Not that it did them much good.
Barkers attacked from the whistle, and as the ball pinged around the Zebras box, it sat up nicely for Amy D’Ortenzio, who, side-on to goal, lobbed the keeper for the opener. The goal was timed at 22 seconds, just six seconds shy of the fastest-ever women’s goal, 1-0.
The lightning start was sustained a few minutes later when Lisa Walsh broke on the left and tucked a low shot inside the far post for 2-0 with only four minutes on the clock.
Zebras settled a bit after that, but halfway through the half, Barkers had a throw on the left. The ball was played to D’Ortenzio, who ran on and placed a neat shot into the centre of the goal for 3-0.
Just before half-time, Kelly Butera sent an outswinging corner in from the right, and Walsh was on hand to head the ball downwards, and it bounced up and past the keeper for 4-0.
Half-time 4-0 and, with the game put to bed and the wind behind them in the second half, the only question was how many more would Barkers score?
At half-time, Zebras helped Barkers’ cause by switching goalkeepers for a smaller version, but she turned out to be quite good, making one excellent save from Walsh as Barkers strove in vain to add to their tally, while Brunswick had some half-chances of their own.
It was the introduction of youngster Isabella Vorpasso that sparked new life into Barkers. They cleared their lines, finding D’Ortenzio on the halfway line on the right wing.
She sprinted clear, took a quick look up and crossed a perfect low ball into the path of the oncoming Vorpasso, who didn’t even bother to take a touch before stroking the ball home for 5-0 – an absolute peach of a goal and she’s been on then pitch for all of 20 seconds.
Barkers attacked again and this time, the ball came in from the right to find D’Ortenzio in the middle. With her back to goal, she could have laid off, but chose to swivel and hit a low shot into the bottom corner to complete her hat-trick and 6-0.
Later on, D’Ortenzio again turned provider, crossing from the left to leave Aeisha De Marco with the goal at her mercy, but she shot over.
With just over 3 minutes left, Barkers were defending high on their halfway line, but lost the ball.
Zebras broke with players to spare and sure enough, the onrushing keeper Ashleigh Fraraccio wasn’t enough to stop Emmanuelle Mattana becoming the first player to breach the Barkers’ defence for over 6 hours.
While this was another very competent all-round display, it has to be said that D’Ortenzio gave an absolute masterclass of forward play, hustling defenders, scoring goals and providing pinpoint crosses.
Barkers stay second but are eight points behind Port Melbourne with seven games left.
Next is a Sunday trip to bottom side Ashburton, but Barkers need Port to start dropping points.
Also on Friday night, the Barkers’ men, sitting bottom of the 12-team ladder, visited eleventh-placed Doncaster Rovers in a battle of the cellar-dwellers.
Earlier in the season, Barkers had lost 0-4 at home to Rovers while being reduced to eight players by some questionable refereeing.
This time, the tables were turned, as Barkers ran out 4-0 winners with goals from Maxim Solovyev, Sam Klepac, Dushaan Atanasovski and a first senior goal from youngster Jack Buglass one minute from time.
This was Barkers’ second win in a row and lifts them two spots to tenth.
Next is a Sunday home game against eleventh-placed North Caulfield.
Earlier, a very young men’s reserves side had a night to forget as Doncaster won 8-0.