Barkers hit Monbulk for six

The Mooroolbark Barkers had an impressive win over Monbulk on the weekend. Picture: UNSPLASH.

By Peter Stephenson

Saturday was mild and sunny at Esther Park as Mooroolbark Soccer Club (fourth) hosted Monbulk Rangers (eleventh) in round four of State 2 South-East.

Barkers had to make three changes to the side that lost 1-3 at Knox City, with Eddie Clark, Sam Klepac and Josh Newman replacing Dan Burrows, Steve Nittoli and Geordie Scott.

In the second half, Ahren Angulo and Harry Rushton would make their debuts as substitutes. On paper a straightforward fixture for Barkers, but soccer is never so predictable.

It was 34 years to the day since David Klepac scored in a 5-2 win over Nunawading. Son Sam, the only player whose father and grandfather both played for the club, was unaware of this. Or perhaps deep down, he was, for something special was about to happen.

Not that there was much evidence of this in the first half. Barkers began well, with a low ball in from the left allowing Arash Sadeghi to score his first goal for Barkers with a calm finish into the bottom corner past Beau Newman in the Monbulk goal.

Then on the stroke of half-time, Barkers had a free-kick just inside their own half. This was pumped into the penalty area, then cleared out to Maxim Solovyev, who hit a shot which was saved by Newman as it bounced awkwardly in front of him. Half-time: Mooroolbark 1-1 Monbulk Rangers, with no hint of what was to follow.

On the return from the break the Barkers, in particular Solovyev and Klepac, shifted up a gear to dramatic effect.

On 56 minutes, Nick Andrejic found Solovyev, who released Klepac on the right. Klepac beat his man and hit a low shot into the corner of the net for 2-1 Barkers, a sublime finish to a fine move.

Then Mark Naumowicz had to claim the ball in a goalmouth scramble from a Monbulk corner, before Sean Perrin broke on the left wing. He crossed invitingly for Klepac, who hit a lovely glancing touch beyond Newman into the far corner for 3-1.

Within a minute, Solovyev had slipped a clever ball through to Klepac, who responded by claiming his hat-trick within 15 minutes – the second-fastest ever by a male Barker and 4-1 to Barkers.

Right on full time, Klepac hit a shot on the run just wide, but Barkers were far from finished as stoppage time loomed. First, a long ball from the right saw Solovyev head wide from an offside position. Then Solovyev again set up Klepac, who scored his fourth for the half. Just a minute later, a cross from the right found Solovyev, who made it 6-1 and gained his just reward for all those assists.

Full-time: Mooroolbark 6-1 Monbulk Rangers.

This really was a game of two halves. After half-time, Solovyev and Klepac were unplayable, albeit assisted by a generous Monbulk defence. It’s noticeable that, within two weeks, Solovyev has linked up with two different forwards to demolish the opposition.

Barkers are now second, three points behind the unbeaten Peninsula Strikers, and host Skye United (eighth) at the Kennel in a rare Thursday night fixture.