Waters, making only his third start for the Railwaymen was in the right place at the right time to turn home Liam Nolan’s cross-shot on 32 minutes to open the scoring. Great credit must also go to Vadaine Oliver who chased a long cross from new boy Greg Leigh to keep the move alive with a clever header.
Crewe Alexandra’s latest recruit, loanee defender Greg Leigh, went straight into the team for tonight’s Capital One Cup tie at Oakwell. Leigh, 19, only confirmed his five-month loan deal earlier today and the athletic left-back greeted his new team-mates for the first time when he was collected on the motorway en route to Yorkshire.
The England Youth International replaced Jon Guthrie in the back four with Steve Davis only making two changes to the side that narrowly lost 2-1 at Fleetwood on Saturday. As promised Ben Garratt started in goal in place of Scott Shearer, who began the season at Fleetwood on Saturday.
The former Crewe Alexandra Academy graduate James Bailey started for Barnsley after rejecting a possible move back to Gresty Road during the summer. Sam Winnall, a former trialist with Crewe, also started for Danny Wilson’s side. Barnsley’s new signing, the vastly experienced, Leroy Lita, made his debut for his club.
Barnsley’s Keith Treacy registered the first shot on target within the first 60 seconds of play but the recalled Garratt was quickly down to hold his low drive from 25 yards out.
Leigh’s first contribution saw him burst onto a loose pass from Treacy and his progression saw his cross deflect behind for an early corner. From the set-play, the ball wouldn’t quite drop kindly or quickly enough for Brad Inman to apply a substantial contact and the home side were able to crowd him out and smuggle the ball away.
A sharp turn from Vadaine Oliver saw him try his luck from 25 yards out, but on this occasion it wasn’t testing Adam Davies in the Barnsley goal.
The first free-kick of the match saw Barnsley’s Conor Hourihane force Ben Garratt to back pedal and he was forced to fumble the ball from under his crossbar. Thankfully, George Ray was on hand to smack the ball behind for a corner before Winnall could react. From the resulting corner, Hourinhane produced a superb volley only for Garratt to apply fingertips to touch it behind.
On 14 minutes, Crewe produced their best move of the opening period. Inman was instrumental in the build up releasing his overlapping captain Matt Tootle into the Barnsley box. His cut back from the by-line was perfect for the well placed Billy Waters, but he uncharacteristically hesitated with which foot to approach his shot with and his contact merely took it upwards and into the gloves of Davies. The Crewe youngster didn’t need telling that it had been a very presentable chance from close range. Moments later there was a short stoppage for goalkeeper Davies after he was involved in a collision with the-entitled-to-go-with-it Oliver.
Leigh’s eagerness to get forward saw him win another corner and Ray looped a header onto the top of the netting from Waters’ delivery from the left. At the other end, Adam Dugdale did exceeding well to beat the flying Winnall in the air. A couple of minutes later though the Crewe centre-half was fortunate that his stray pass into midfield was punished by Winnall after he was slipped in by Hourihane but shot wayward.
In what was developing into a fairly open cup tie, Oliver did well to use his physical presence to slip Waters in behind but from an acute angle he could only drill his shot into the side netting. Barnsley also went close when centre-half Martin Craine reached Bailey’s cross first but he couldn’t keep his header down enough to trouble Garratt.
On 32 minutes Crewe Alexandra took the lead. Oliver did superbly well to head a Leigh cross back across goal and invite Liam Nolan to strike a shot across goal and there was the onrushing Waters to tap home his first senior goal. It more than made up for his earlier miss.
With the goal advantage, Crewe continued to contain Barnsley reasonably well and restrict the home side to efforts from long distance. As the first half drew to its conclusion, Treacy again tried his luck from distance but again Garratt was equal to it. In the final minute, Lita seemed to have broken the offside trap but stopped in his tracks fearing he was offside. If he had continued his run he would have been through on goal.
At the beginning of the second half, Winnall planted a header wide of the mark from a corner before Crewe broke with real purpose. Turton didn’t quite execute his pass to go ahead of Waters but after taking the return pass, his low shot was block from just inside the Barnsley penalty area.
Treacy completed a hat-trick of long range efforts after Hourihane took a short free-kick and he was unlucky to see his well struck effort drift away from the far post.
A lovely touch from Tootle set Nolan through the middle of the pitch and his instant pass into Oliver saw him fire over from distance.
Danny Wilson made the first change of the game with Dominic McHale replacing Lita. Crewe also made a change with new loan signing Leigh replaced by Guthrie just after the hour mark.
On 64 minutes, Winnall must have thought he had equalised when he reached Reece Brown’s cross but the agile Garratt made a fine save to keep it out.
Oliver was never afraid to get the ball out of his feet and have a shot and a snap shot from 20 yards had Davies having to scramble across his goal and push it out. Brown had to complete the clearance before an alert Waters reached the loose rebound.
Under severe pressure from Guthrie, McHale shot straight at Garratt from the edge of the box before there were short stoppages so that Bailey and Grant could receive some treatment. Grant was booked for pulling back Hourihane after he threatened to pick up a loose ball in our final third.
The influential Bailey continued to try and drive Barnsley forward with his passing ability but the Alex back line was standing firm and we continued to look a threat whenever we kept possession for any length of time.
Both managers made another change with Lee Molyneux replacing Inman and Barnsley pushing defender Jean-Yves M’Voto up front to partner Winnall. Treacy made way.
Winnall’s frustrating night continued on 78 minutes when he latched onto M’Voto’s knock down but the former Crewe trialist couldn’t keep his shot down and it sailed into the Barnsley fans behind Garratt’s goal.
Barnsley were going to throw anything and everyone into the Crewe penalty area for the closing stages but on the break, Waters so nearly poked possession through to Oliver and but for Craine’s out stretched leg, the Crewe forward would have been clean through on goal.
Crewe’s goalmouth lived a bit of a charmed life for the next five minutes but Tootle’s second goal certainly ended some anxiety with five minutes remaining. Molyneux did well to initially retain possession and after encouraging Tootle to join in with the attack, he played a ball into Waters, who immediately back healed a return into his path. Tootle took the ball in his stride before drilling it past a helpless Adam Davies.
A late substitution for the Railwaymen saw the hard working Oliver replaced by the former Barnsley trialist Marcus Haber. The Crewe defence worked hard to preserve their first clean-sheet of the season and now we await the second round draw on Wednesday evening.