Crewe let first half lead slip to in-form Barnsley.
Crewe Alexandra slipped to their second successive defeat after Barnsley staged a second half fight-back to claim all three points at Gresty Road. It was a game decided by set plays with both sides scoring from corners before Alfie Mowson hit home the winner from a well struck free-kick on 67 minutes.
The Railwaymen were given a first half lead thanks to Jon Guthrie’s first professional goal, as he turned home a shot from Marcus Haber from close range following a corner but the in-form Tykes fought back in the second half.
Barnsley’s leading scorer Sam Winnall levelled things up on 53 minutes via a corner before Mowson fired home a free-kick into the bottom corner to seal the win with 23 minutes remaining.
The visitors were on top in the second half and Crewe had Ben Garratt to thank for tipping a shot from substitute Harry Chapman onto the crossbar and defender Zoumana Bakayogo di did well to deny Marley Watkins a tap in from close range.
The on-loan Tom Hitchcock replaced Callum Saunders for the visit of Barnsley. Hitchcock, 23 has signed from Championship side MK Dons until the end of the season.
With loanee defender Semi Ajayi returning to Cardiff City following his 93-day emergency loan, Steve Davis was forced into a defensive reshuffle. Jon Guthrie moved into the centre to partner the ever present Ben Nugent and the versatile Zoumana Bakayogo was selected at left-back after starting in midfield last week at Chesterfield.
George Cooper returned to the left hand side of midfield after missing the club’s last two games due to a thigh injury.
George Ray was fit enough to take his place on the Crewe’s substitutes’ bench after overcoming the fractured ankle he sustained away at Colchester back in November. Ray played 45 minutes for the club’s Under-21s on Monday.
With Crewe’s recent record of starting games slowly, Barnsley were eager to get on the front foot and put us under some early pressure. The visitors were given an early opportunity via a free-kick from the edge of the Crewe penalty area after David Fox was wrongly penalised for a tackle. The Crewe captain won the ball cleanly but the referee awarded a free-kick and booked the midfielder. Justice was done when Irishman Conor Hourinhane drilled the free-kick into the wall.
Crewe’s first real venture into the Barnsley half saw new signing Hitchcock and Haber combine for the first time but the Canadian’s low cross was too close to goalkeeper Adam Davies and he collected it with relative ease.
Haber then used his aerial ability to head down to Inman but his firm shot was blocked. Inman, who was picking up some excellent pockets of space, also had another effort blocked after Cooper looked to have been fouled right on the edge of the Barnsley box.
Cooper also produced the pass of the game to find Inman in behind James Bree but Davies rushed from his line to tighten the angle and make the save.
There was hardly anything between the two sides and neither goalkeeper was called into too much action in the first half. Fox did superbly well to get across and deflect a shot from Hourihane behind for a corner. Crewe were defending corners well with the likes of Sam Winnall, Ashley Fletcher and defender Alfie Mowson all kept away from goal. Mowson did register a header on target but Garratt was well placed to make the save look easy.
Inman continued to deliver some dangerous crosses but it was certainly defences on top until the opening goal arrived just after the half an hour mark. Another burst down the wing saw Haber tripped close to the by-line and Crewe took full advantage with a free-kick straight from the training ground. James Jones drilled a low cross that evaded a collection of bodies and it fell to Haber at the far post. The towering striker spun to get a shot off and in the melee, Jon Guthrie applied the decisive touch to open the scoring. It was the defender’s first senior goal since joining Crewe in 2012.
Crewe continued to pass the ball and probe openings and at the other end we were standing firm from an array of corners going into the box.
Therefore, it was a surprise that Barnsley’s equaliser came via a corner on 53 minutes. Hourinane’s delivery from the left hand side decided everyone to fall to Winnall and he seemed to bundle across the line.
Garratt had to come and punch a couple of high balls going into our box but from another corner, Crewe just had enough to get it clear after a mass melee in front of the Crewe goalkeeper.
Crewe tried to re-take the lead in the game with Inman having a shot saved but it was Barnsley who went ahead on 67 minutes. Nugent lunged into a tackle on Fletcher to concede a free-kick and Mawson made us pay double. The defender used a great technical to strike it past the wall and it seemed to dip into Garratt’s bottom corner. He was also booked for over celebrating.
After falling behind Bakayogo flew into the near post trying to get his head onto the end of Inman cross. Crewe introduced youngsters Charlie Kirk and Callum Ainley for Hitchcock and Fox.
The youngsters were comfortable on the ball and tried to make things happen but it was Barnsley looking the more likely to score in the second half. Fletcher spun inside the box but dragged his shot wide and the on-loan Manchester United did have the ball in the net but it was ruled out for the offside.
The Barnsley substitute Harry Chapman then hit a superb curling shot that had to be tipped onto the bar by Garratt. It was a fantastic save with one hand and although the ball dropped to remain in play Nugent completed the clearance.
Crewe did create some dangerous situations but just lacked the quality from crosses to beat Marc Roberts and Mowson.
A late half chance fell to Kirk but from a tight angle he could only shoot against the legs of Bree and Barnsley fairly comfortably saw out the remaining five minutes of stoppage.