Crewe Alexandra continued their pre-season preparations with a greater physical test at Barrow AFC. It was Crewe’s third pre-season match combined with a couple of practice matches behind closed doors.
As usual it proved to be a difficult game against the National League side and although results do not count too much, Barrow won it with 10 minutes remaining after our former player Lee Molyneux smashed in a free-kick from 25 yards out. His fierce effort struck Ben Garratt in the mid-drift and a trialist tapped in the loose rebound for the only goal.
Barrrow AFC certainly created the better of the chances in the first half and went close to opening the scoring on the stroke of half-time when Jack Hindle’s tremendous effort hit the underside of the Crewe crossbar and Nicky Hunt managed to block the follow-up.
Crewe began to create better chances in the second period but Chris Porter’s side footed effort was saved by an onrushing goalkeeper and his replacement Alex Nicholls volleyed a Charlie Kirk cross over the bar.
Ben Garratt, who played the second half, made a superb double save to keep Barrow at bay.
David Artell named a strong starting XI at the Furness Building Society Stadium. Dave Richards started in goal and Jordan Bowery and Chris Porter formed the attack with Charlie Kirk and Callum Ainley. Triallist Nicky Hunt also started.
Ian Evatt’s Barrow AFC side contained the former Crewe Alexandra players Lee Molyneux and Callum Saunders in their squad. Both made an appearance in the second half.
Crewe played some neat possession football in the early exchanges but the promising play was just missing that final delivery into the Barrow box. The home side were keen to hit the front much quicker and only a timely interception from Eddie Nolan inside the six-yard box prevented them from creating the first genuine opportunity.
A searching ball from Ray found a willing runner in Porter and after using Kirk as a decoy, his reverse pass found Green entering the penalty area, but the Alex midfielder was tracked well and his shot was blocked.
A random deflection off of the boot of Green gave John Rooney a chance to try his luck with a lofted effort from 20 yards by Richards was well positioned to make a straightforward grab at the lob.
On 25 minutes, fine anticipation from Jason Taylor saw him intercept possession for Barrow and he quickly fed forward Raul Correia down the Crewe right hand side, but his tame shot was too low and straight at Richards.
A couple of minutes later, Crewe were presented with a free-kick in a good position down the left hand side, but Green’s execution was too low into a crowded box and it was hooked away and into the stand.
Green did much better on the counter-attack when bringing the ball forward from the centre of the pitch but Kirk, who had been lively, dragged his shot wide of the target.
It continued to be a fairly even affair but those clear cut chances were not forthcoming.
Richards was forced into his first meaningful save on 36 minutes when he had to show great agility to tip over a well struck shot from full-back Daniel Jones. Richards did well to get his fingertips to his arrowed effort and force it over his crossbar for a rare corner.
A promising move from the Alex saw Green, Pickering and Ainley all combine to find the advanced Ng and his instant pass into Bowery presented the striker with half a chance. After getting the ball out of his feet whilst under pressure, he did manage to get a shot off but it lacked enough power to really trouble Barrow’s trialling goalkeeper.
In the final minute of the half, Barrow were awfully unlucky not to take the lead when Jack Hindle’s wonderful effort from the edge of the Crewe penalty area hit the underside of the crossbar. Richards got something on it as it bounced off the woodwork, before Hunt made a timely challenge to deny Nathan Waterson a simple tap in. It was comfortably the closest we had come to a goal in the opening 45 minutes.
Crewe made two changes at the break with Josh Lundstram replacing Ng at full-back and Ben Garratt given 45 minutes. The Crewe youngster, Lundstram was up against our former player Callum Saunders. Molyneux also came on Barrow at left-back.
An early chance for Crewe saw Bowery and Porter combine but Porter couldn’t quite get over his header to keep it down enough.
Garratt was soon introduced to the action and he had to produce a strong hand to deny Hindle after the winger had cut in from a wide area to get a shot off. Barrow couldn’t take advantage of the rebound and Nolan was able to complete the clearance up field.
More good work from Green presented Porter with our best chance as the ball ran invitingly into his path but the Barrow goalkeeper raced out quickly to narrow his angle and he could only side foot his effort straight at him.
Artell quickly made a change with Porter making way for Alex Nicholls and James Jones replacing Ainley.
Kirk raced through after breaking the Barrow offside trap and after composing himself his accurate cross picks out Nicholls but he can’t quite keep his volley down.
Garatt was then kept busy and he made an outstanding double save as the ball bounced around the box. The Alex keeper showed great reflexes and concentration to keep the ball out of our net.
With just under 20 minutes remaining, Artell used the remainder of his squad to make sure the likes of Walker, Lowery and Wintle got minutes on the pitch.
Reilly had an early chance saved moments after he came on and Finney also had a firm effort blocked.
With ten minutes remaining, Barrow took the lead via a free-kick. Lee Molyneux smashed it from 25 yards out and it bounced off Garratt and one of the home side’s many trialists gleefully tapped home for the only goal of the game.
Crewe: Richards (Garratt), Ng (Lundstram), Hunt (Offord), Ray (Walker), Nolan (Sass-Davies), Green (Finney), Pickering (Wintle), Ainley (Jones) , Kirk (Lowery), Bowery (Reilly), Porter (Nicholls)