Crewe: Garratt, Ng, Nolan, Ray, Pickering, Green, Jones (Wintle, 57), Ainley, Kirk (Lowery, 74), Bowery, McKirdy (Dagnall, 84)
Unused Subs: Richards, Raynes, Walker, Miller
Goals: McKirdy (69)
Attendance: 1,951 (379 Crewe)
Two John Akinde penalties ended Crewe’s mini-unbeaten run of the road with his winning spot-kick coming just four minutes from time.
Crewe felt awfully hard done by with the second one because captain George Ray appeared to have made a clean contact on the ball as it spun through to the Barnet substitute Shaquille Coulthirst. It looked a soft one to award and Crewe’s hopes of a battling point harshly slipped away.
The on-loan Harry McKirdy had popped up with a real goal poacher’s finish to draw Crewe Alexandra level with just over 20 minutes to go.
McKirdy was in the right place at the right time to turn a looping header from George Ray into the net at the far post. It was another tidy finish from the on-loan Aston Villa starlet.
It was a tough encounter played out on a slippery surface at the Hive Stadium and the Railwaymen felt hard done by to have nothing to show for our concerted efforts.
David Artell made one change from the side that won 2-1 at Newport County last weekend. James Jones, who made his return from long-term injury at Rodney Parade last week, started his first game of the campaign in place of Tom Lowery.
The strength of the Crewe Alexandra bench resulted in leading scorer Chris Porter remaining at home to continue on his rehabilitation after he made a return for the Under-23s against Nottingham Forest in the week. Forwards, Chris Dagnall and Shaun Miller both started on the substitutes’ bench for the Railwaymen, as did defenders Brad Walker and Michael Raynes
A pre-match downpour made for a slippery surface and Crewe’s first real chance arrived after three minutes but Callum Ainley couldn’t quite squeeze it through to Harry McKirdy. It skidded off his boot as it threatened to run through towards Craig Ross’ goal.
Barnet had an early shout for a penalty after Alex Nicholls tried to take a Ryan Watson free-kick down on his chest but again the Barnet midfield runner lost his footing on the slippery surface rather than have George Ray foul him. The referee agreed with the assessment.
Curtis Weston hounded Green into losing possession some 25 yards from our goal and after he had played a swift one-two with John Akinde, Weston was only denied a clean shot at Garratt’s goal by a timely challenge from Perry Ng. Moments later, winger Simeon Akinola flashed one past Garratt’s left hand post.
Players continued to slip and slide in the conditions and it was difficult for any passing sequences to really materialise. In the opening 20 minutes, Ainley was Crewe’s best outlet and looked the most likely player to conjure something with his trickery and close control.
With the rain really incessant, it made sense to try shots from long range. Barnet’s Ryan Watson did just that after 27 minutes, but Garratt watched it all the way to make a simple enough save.
Moments later, the home side created the first real chance of the game. Crewe were hit on the break with Akinde quickly feeding Nicholls but his final shot just missed Garratt’s left hand post.
A good passing move from the Alex saw Kirk dummy a ball up the line and after an interchange of passing involving McKirdy and Bowery, the Barnet defender Ricardo Santos did well to get the ball back to his goalkeeper before Bowery could collect the return.
From a Crewe corner routine, Ainley produced a clever near post run to leave Nicholls trailing, but his shot was blocked. In the second phase of play, the ball was teed up for James Jones but he couldn’t keep his shot down enough to test Ross for the first time in the game.
Three minutes before the half time break, Crewe’s brightest spark, Ainley, tried his luck with a dipping half volley. It was on target but too close to Ross. It was a skilful effort that just had to be higher to have really asked a question of the Barnet goalkeeper.
In the final minute of the half, a Watson corner from the right hand side caused mayhem inside the Crewe penalty area. Having dropped awkwardly inside the six-yard box, Garratt made a save close to his line and Crewe managed to scramble it away to safety after a couple of blocks. Crewe had survived and went into the break on level terms.
The game was only four minutes into the second half when Crewe conceded an avoidable penalty. Simeon Akinola showed a flash of his trickery to advance into the penalty area and as he was about to shoot, a collection of Crewe players slid into a challenge and referee Lee Swabey pointed to the spot. It was unclear who had been penalised. The Crewe players had gone to ground to give the official the opportunity to give it. Akinde stepped up to calmly put Garratt the wrong way.
Crewe tried to reply and some good build up involving McKirdy and Ainley down the right hand side resulted in full-back Perry Ng having a deflected effort on goal.
Artell made their first change with Wintle replacing Jones on 57 minutes. Barnet also replaced Akinola with Shaquile Coulthirst. Wintle had an early shot from a corner that was blocked en route.
After good work from McKirdy, the supportive Kirk side footed a shot into the gloves of Ross. It was a tight angle for the winger to squeeze it from his position.
Crewe opened up the Barnet for the first time on 66 minutes. Green did superbly with a thrusting run from midfield and after he had produced an interchange of passing with Bowery, the former Eire International saw his lifted shot palmed away spectacularly by Ross. It was Crewe’s best move of the match and it was a fine stop from the Barnet goalkeeper.
Crewe had been growing in confidence and the pressure finally told with 20 minutes left. Crewe kept the ball alive inside the Barnet penalty thanks to George Ray’s looping header into the air and as it dropped out of the sky, there was McKirdy to guide it side footed past Ross for his second goal in two games. Right place right time from the goal poacher.
With the minutes ticking down, Crewe made a change with Lowery replacing Kirk. Barnet made a second change also with Akpa Akro replacing Nicholls.
Ng whipped one wide of the target as Crewe tried to up it a gear.
Barnet replaced Michael Nelson for Fumnaya Shomotun with 13 minutes left.
The Bees were unfortunate not to regain the lead when substitute Akpa Akro produced a stunning volley that smacked against the Crewe crossbar. It was a wonderfully struck shot that just needed to be a fewer inches lower.
With four minutes remaining on the clock, Barnet were awarded their second penalty of the game and it looked extremely harsh on Ray, who had looked to have got a firm connection on the ball as it spun through to Coulthirst. The Crewe captain and the rest of his teammates couldn’t believe it when the referee pointed to the spot again! Akinde stepped up and lifted it into the top corner this time.
With Dagnall on for McKirdy, Crewe gave it a real go in the closing stages to try and find a second equaliser but a late effort from Ray was blocked and Barnet held on to claim all three points.