Crewe Alexandra slipped to their second successive away defeat in a week but only had themselves to blame after conceding two poor goals in the second half.
In an encounter where defences were generally on top, it was the home side who eventually broke the stalemate on 69 minutes via a free-kick.
Crewe didn’t pick up the opposition defender Lewin Nyatanga at the far post and he headed past Ben Garratt.
The Alex goalkeeper was then forced off with an injury on 73 minutes and his replacement Paul Rachubka was credited with an own goal on his Alex debut after he had performed the final touch after Crewe had made a mess of clearing a corner. The ball looped up high into the air and as it dropped, Rachubka could only touch it over his own line for 2-0.
As an attacking force, Crewe offered very little but Marcus Haber did graze the post with a header in the first half and the big Canadian also had our best opening of the entire game when he broke the offside trap but he could only fire at the legs of Adam Davies.
Young defender James Baillie was recalled to the Crewe Alexandra starting line-up for the club’s second trip into Yorkshire this week. Baillie resumed at right wing-back with the versatile Ollie Turton switching across to left wing-back at the expense of the on-loan Greg Leigh, who dropped down to the substitutes’ bench. There was a recall to the matchday squad for Billy Waters, who replaced the injured Lauri Dalla Valle (hip). Waters had scored two of his three goals this season against the Tykes back in August.
Barnsley’s caretaker manager Mark Burton made four chances to the side that lost 5-1 to Crawley last weekend with the former Crewe Academy James Bailey recalled in midfield to face his former club.
There was a real tentative start to the encounter with Barnsley’ Conor Hourihane over hitting an early free-kick out of play and George Smith doing likewise from a decent position out on the Crewe right hand side.
Crewe were also guilt of misplacing some early passes but the home side couldn’t quite take full advantage in our half of the pitch. There was also an early stoppage as Anthony Grant needed treatment after being caught as he laid a pass off.
Crewe’s first real sniff of the Barnsley goal saw the advanced Baillie win a corner on 17 minutes. Ness swung it in from the right hand side and after Davis had rose to flick it on, Marcus Haber climbed to direct a downward header goalwards. The Barnsley goalkeeper Adam Davies managed to get his glove onto it but it brushed the post and he had to scramble across his six-yard box to get full control of it.
Moments later, James Jones played a neater interchange of passing with Nicky Ajose and seemingly got ahead of Ben Pearson inside the Barnsley penalty area. Jones was forced off and there was contact but it would have been a harsh award.
On 22 minutes and with Crewe growing in confidence and becoming more of a threat, Haber broke the offside trap to latch onto a through ball from Alan Tate. The Canada International showed strength to hold off the intentions of Lewin Nyatanga but he drilled his shot against the legs of Davies. It was another good chance for the Railwaymen.
The Alex were certainly enjoying more of the possession but those genuine chances didn’t arrive to test Davies again as we headed into the half time interval. Ajose was virtually operating on scraps or chasing down under hit back passes towards the Barnsley goalkeeper.
Ajose did find the run of an advanced Ness on the stroke of half time but he had to take the half chance early as it bounced and his shot cleared the crossbar. In first half stoppage time, Leroy Lita flashed a really dangerous cross across the six-yard box and it only needed a touch from the well place Kane Hemmings to give the Tykes the lead heading into the break.
Barnsley made a change for the start of the second half with new loan signing John O’Sullivan replacing Conor Hourihane. The first opportunity on the second period duly arrived after only six minutes but the Barnsley captain Martin Craine couldn’t quite keep his header down from George Smith’s corner. Ray and then Turton headed dangerous looking crosses from Smith out of a crowded box.
A fine counter-attack from the Railwaymen saw Ness find Ajose and his neat flick found Jones in support, but the young midfielder couldn’t quite return the pass into the Crewe forward and the covering Smith was able to intercept. Then after being picked out by Ness, Haber shot over from a tight angle.
On 65 minutes, Bailey did exceedingly well down to trick his way past Turton down the Crewe right hand and deliver a superb cross from Kane Hemmings headed over Ben Garratt’s crossbar. Barnsley soon made their second change with George Waring replacing the experienced Lita in the Tykes forward line.
Grant was booked for a foul on Josh Scowen as he made his way down the Alex left but the Barnsley man certainly exaggerated his fall to win the free-kick. Scowen sent the free-kick over to the far post and centre-half Lewin Nyatnaga headed past Garratt for the opener on 69 minutes.
The opening goal in what had been a game of few opportunities, prompted a change from Crewe boss Steve Davis with George Cooper replacing Grant, who ran the risk after being booked.
The second change was forced with Garratt limping off with an injury and he had to be replaced by debutant Paul Rachubka. The free agent had only signed for Crewe yesterday morning. Bailey nipped in after Crewe made a mess of clearing their own box but he couldn’t get his shot on target to test Rachubka for the first time. Pearson did likewise from distance after he had skipped away from Ness in the centre of the pitch.
On 78 minutes, Ness did release Ajose but his attempted clip over Davies lacked enough height to really trouble the Barnsley goalkeeper. It had been in truth a rare attack from the Railwaymen in the second period.
Young Jones was booked as frustration got the better of him after he had surrendered possession to Scowen far too easily.
On 82 minutes, Crewe made a right mess of a corner situation, resulting in an own goal from Rachubka. The Alex goalkeeper had gone to ground from the initial delivery into a crowded penalty area and the ball was sent high into the air under his crossbar and after regaining his footing, the Alex stopper could only punch it backwards and into an empty net. It was a bizarre goal to say the least and left Crewe with a mountain to climb.
With the minutes ticking by, Pearson shot just wide before Ness produced an excellent delivery from a free-kick that only needed a touch. None was forthcoming from a navy Alex shirt.
Our last change of the afternoon saw Tate replaced by the more attack-minded Billy Waters butt the best chance fell to Waring at the death but the Crewe goalkeeper pushed it away from danger.