Crewe exit the FA Cup at the third round stage after having a real go against Championship side Barnsley.
Crewe Alexandra’s FA Cup adventure ended at Gresty Road this afternoon with Championship side Barnsley eventually winning 3-1 but the Railwaymen gave a good account of themselves against quality opposition and were very much in the tie when midfielder Paul Green levelled things up just three minutes into the second half.
David Artell’s hard working side had fallen behind after just three minutes after Jacob Brown fired in from the edge of the box on the half volley.
Crewe deserved to be level but Gerhard Struber controlled much of the possession in the second half and struck again with 15 minutes remaining when Conor Chaplin turned home from close range after Bambo Diaby had won his initial header from the free-kick.
The Railwaymen went for broke to try and force an equaliser and a replay at Oakwell but with Will Jaaskelainen in a crowded box from a late free-kick, the ball was cleared into a large empty space and the lightening quick Luke Thomas raced onto it and make sure he finished us off with the final kick of the game.
Harry Pickering returned from his slight hamstring injury to regain his place at left-back. Pickering missed the New Year’s Day victory over Carlisle United and had to be replaced by the even younger Rio Adebisi.
Adebisi dropped back down to the substitutes’ bench for the visit of Barnsley in the FA Cup. As expected, the relatively new Barnsley manager, Gerhard Struber, named a strong side for their first trip to Gresty Road since February 2016. The Tykes made just four changes from their side that lost 2-1 to Derby County on Thursday.
Before we barely had time to settle into our seats, Barnsley took the lead after just three minutes. Goalscorer Jacob Brown challenged Ryan Wintle in an aerial dual to flick the ball into Conor Chaplin. He instantly flicked the ball back to Brown and without breaking stride, he fired a superb half volley from the edge of the box that beat Will Jaaskelainen.
It was the worst possible start from the Alex and a confident Barnsley really imposed their game on us in the opening exchanges. The Tykes started on the front foot and Crewe were struggling to break through their high press. Crewe were having to hang in there early on. Captain Alex Mowatt shot a half volley wide before defender Mads Anderson threatened at corner after running round the back.
From a Brown cross, the sharp Chaplin poked a shot straight at the Crewe goalkeeper after stealing some space at the near post. Chaplin also hit one just wide as they threatened to double their lead.
Crewe’s first attempt on goal saw Daniel Powell turn Clarke Odour and fire into the side netting. He probably had more time than he realised. Moments later he was caught just offside after being played through by Anene.
Anene also went close to connecting to a dangerous cross delivered by Ng and Ainley was unlucky not to find a red shirt after reaching the by-line. It was better from the Alex.
Luke Thomas drifted off the wing for Barnsley to fire at the busier Jaaskelainen.
Crewe’s best chance of the first half came in the 35th minute following a fantastic passing move that stemmed the length of the pitch. With two Barnsley players grounded, Crewe broke at pace and Pickering did everything right with his low cross. Green couldn’t quite reach it but it fell invitingly to Powell coming in at the far post but he didn’t connect right and it flew off his shin and wide of the target. It was a golden chance that went begging.
Crewe grew in confidence as the half progressed. Another fine move involving Ng and Powell saw Diaby just beat Anene to the low cross and Powell went on a mazy run as we entered stoppage time. There were certainly levels of real encouragement for the Alex to take into the second period.
The Alex deservedly drew level just three minutes into the second half. There appeared to be a handball at a corner when Hunt won his header but in the second phase, Kirk’s cross back into the crowded box, Paul Green stole in to head home. The place erupted and it really was game on again.
Barnsley had a chance to go straight back in front after Jaaskelainen had punched clear but Brown couldn’t keep his volley down enough. Elliott Simones also dragged a shot wide of the far post from a decent position.
Defender Clarke Odour nearly caught us out from an excellently taken free-kick but the Alex stopper got his finger to it, to touch it onto the crossbar and Green headed the rebound over his own bar to evade any danger. Brown fired onto the top of the netting.
Crewe were hanging in there but were feeding more on half chances. The hard work continued but Barnsley tightened up at the back. Lowery nearly poked Kirk through but it was just intercepted by Jordan Williams.
The Tykes continued to pass the ball but Crewe were defending our box well. Green and Hunt did well to halt a run from Thomas and Pickering did well to deny the same player.
Barnsley continued to patient in the build-up but it took a preventable goal in the 75th minute to see us fall behind again.
A free-kick from the touchline entered our box and after Diaby won his header up against Anene, the sharper Chaplin nodded home from close range. It was another disappointing goal to concede and now Crewe had to chase the game in the final 15 minutes.
Artell made his first change with Dale replacing Kirk and moments later, Finney came on for Ainley.
A forceful run from Pickering saw him straight at Brad Collins in the Barnsley goal. That one genuine chance never really materialised for the Alex.
Dale tricked his way down the left hand side late on but his cross was too close to Collins.
A free kick in stoppage time was our last opportunity to snatch something. Everyone, including Jaaskelainen packed the box but after Pickering’s cross was cleared, the rapid Luke Thomas raced away from Lowery and tapped home into an empty net with the last kick of the game.