Barnsley staged a second half comeback to inflict Crewe Alexandra’s second successive league defeat. Academy youngster Billy Waters had given the Railwaymen a dream start with a fantastic volley on 22 minutes but Danny Wilson’s spirited Tykes fought back to claim all three points thanks to second half strikes from the experienced Leroy Lita and a header from their captain Martin Craine.
Crewe certainly had a strong appeal for a penalty when Craine looked to have his arms wrappped around Vadaine Oliver with the scoreline at 1-1, but referee Andy Davies didn’t award it and Oliver was booked minutes later for continuing his protests.
Crewe had a couple of late chances with captain Matt Tootle curling an effort into the side netting via a free-kick and Waters just couldn’t generate enough power into a late shot to really test Adam Davies.
Steve Davis made two changes to the side that defeated Barnsley in the Capital One Cup on Tuesday evening. Scott Shearer returned in goal ahead of the younger Ben Garratt. The other change saw new loan signing Jamie Ness selected ahead of Liam Nolan in the midfield three. New summer signing Chris Atkinson was named on the substitutes’ bench for the first time after overcoming a recent hamstring injury.
The visitors from South Yorkshire created the first opening of the game after just two minutes. The former Crewe trialist Sam Winnall got ahead of Adam Dugdale at the near post to flick a header goalwards but Shearer was equal to it to dive to his right and make a vital early save.
After that early scare, Crewe tried to settle into their passing rhythm and produced a couple of early crosses that were cut out at the near post. The best of those opportunities fell to Oliver Turton who had shrugged off Joe Dudgeon to reach Waters’ through ball but his low delivery was cut out.
It was a fairly even opening that needed a moment of class to break the deadlock. That duly arrived in the 22nd minute with Waters scoring a contender for goal of the season. Ness was involved in the build-up, supplying the on rushing Greg Leigh down the left flank and his excellent, deep cross to the far post was dispatched superbly first time on the volley by a flying Waters. It was a wonderful strike from the local teenager, caught fully on the volley to give Adam Davies absolutely no chance and follows on from his first senior strike at Oakwell on Tuesday night.
Barnsley found a towering George Ray in the way as they looked to try and find the head of the physical Winnall. In one sequence, Ray headed three successive high balls out of our penalty area.
At the other end, the powerful Nyatanga did well to deny Oliver a clear header at goal from a Ness free-kick and the busy Waters nearly latched onto a good through ball from Tootle.
In the closing stages of the first half, Lita produced a sublime flick into the path of James Bailey but Turton did well to track him into the box and block his cross.
The second half quickly saw Oliver presented with a half chance but the ball wouldn’t sit kindly for him to apply a clean contact on his shot. Moments later our former midfielder Bailey had a volley deflected into the gloves of Shearer via a throw-in.
Crewe were a little sloppy in possession at times with their passing out from the back, but Brad Inman did inject some real purpose with a splendid run and shot that drifted just wide.
On 57 minutes, Barnsley levelled but Crewe were the cause of our downfall. Left-back Leigh tried a skilful turn but was caught in possession too close to his own goal and Winnall's low shot-come-cross found his way past the fingertips of Shearer and Lita was not going to miss from inside the six yard box for his first goal for his new club.
Moments later, came the real talking point with Oliver clearly held by Craine as the ball was played into the box. The referee waved away our loud appeals and Oliver was mortified by the dcison not to award a penalty. He was later booked for keeping his protests on.
Barnsley’s goalkeeper Davies punched clear of Olivers’ head before Conor Hourinhane dragged a shot wide of the mark.
On 69 minutes, the lively Lita was awfully unlucky not to see his acrobatic overhead kick beat Shearer after Winnall had nodded possession back into his path. It was a wonderful effort that was only inches wide. Winnall was rightly booked for a wild kick out at Anthony Grant and Craine soon followed him after chopping Oliver.
Another superb free kick delivery from Ness was flicked goalwards by Oliver and he wouldn’t have known that Dugdale was well placed behind him if he had left it.
The first change for the Alex saw Lee Molyneux replace Inman just moments before Barnsley conjured up their winning goal. Ray actually did well to cut out a dangerous cross from Hourihane. From the corner, Nyatanga won the initial header and Craine headed the second one into the roof of the net for 2-1. Grant was a little unfortunate not to get ball off the line.
Lita was replaced by Paul Digby.
In the closing minutes of the game, Haber was introduced for Turton with Crewe switching to 4-4-2. Tootle won a late free-kick and took it himself but he curled it into the side netting from the edge of the penalty area. An even later chance saw the ball not quite drop in time for Waters and his shot lacked power to test Davies.