Match analysis: Crewe Alex 1, Barnsley 0
WHISPER it, but if Crewe are not careful they are going to lose their reputation as a bunch of pretty passers.
Sure, they can still move it around at a fair lick, such as when Ashley Westwood, Byron Moore, Harry Davis and Max Clayton took a combined five touches to rip through Barnsley shortly before half-time in the Alex's last pre-season friendly last night.
But no-one could accuse the Railwaymen of being one-dimensional under Steve Davis, and the biggest beneficiaries could be big centre-halves Adam Dugdale and Mark Ellis.
Westwood's set-pieces are introduced with a slow hand clap echoing around Gresty Road more familiar with an imminent Rory Delap throw-in or Olympic long jump attempt.
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And the new defensive pairing is proving a huge target in the opposition box.
Two of Westwood's free-kicks had already made Championship side Barnsley's back four panic before he dipped one in perfectly to provide Crewe with the breakthrough in the 19th minute.
This time it was Dugdale who made light of the marking of the Tykes' trialist Ibrahima Sonko, the former Stoke City defender, to find himself in space 12 yards out to plant a header past Ben Alnwick.
It was the single goal that allows Davis's team to launch their new season against Hartlepool in the Capital One Cup on Saturday with a boast that they have still not lost a match, competitive or otherwise, since February.
That include three pre-season friendlies against teams from English football's second tier, with Bolton and Huddersfield preceding Barnsley to meet their match in South Cheshire over the past two-and-a-half weeks.
Davis said: "It's been a good pre-season and I was glad to bring in new players early so we could work with them on the training ground.
"We will be full of confidence going into the season with it being something like 30 games now without defeat, both in the league and friendlies.
"If we play like we have shown we can in pre-season then we will be fine."
Crewe had probably edged a first half of few chances as they lined up in a 4-4-2 formation, with Mathias Pogba utilised wide on the right.
Pogba was able to give Barnsley left-back Reuben Noble-Williams the runaround in the first 20 minutes, leaving him for dead on one occasion to surge into the area where he was unfortunate to see the ball deflect out for a goal-kick.
The visitors' best chance of the opening period came when Alan Martin was caught in possession on the right of his six-yard box and Stephen Dawson did his best to chip the keeper and find the far corner, but could not get enough dip on his shot.
Midfielder Luke Murphy replaced Ajay Leitch-Smith at half-time as Crewe switched to a 4-3-3 formation, with Pogba the tip of the attack and Clayton and Moore pushed on to the flanks.
Murphy looked to make an immediate impact and drove one shot from 25 yards just wide then, a couple of minutes later, set off on a mazy run deep into the Barnsley box before being tripped.
Referee Paul Tierney shocked no-one when he blew his whistle, but there was a major surprise when he subsequently gave a free-kick a yard outside the area, rather than the anticipated spot-kick.
Harry Davis smacked the set-piece high into the stand.
Barnsley started to turn the tide, but rarely tested Martin aside from the occasional long-ranger, including a fierce, swerving 35-yard free-kick from Tomasz Cywka.
A second trialist, forward Scott Hogan, perhaps had the best chance to level the scores when he found space just inside the Crewe area and turned and spun to shoot, but he could not find the net.
And Crewe stood up to be counted as Barnsley forced a handful of set-pieces and went closest to a second goal themselves when Dugdale glanced wide in the 88th minute.
Crewe: Martin, Davis, Robertson, Ellis, Dugdale, Pogba (Daniels, 83), Osman, Westwood (Turton, 75), Leitch-Smith (Murphy, 46), Clayton, Moore (White, 86). Subs not used: Garratt, Guthrie, Ray.
Barnsley: Alnwick, Hassell, Sonko, Collins, Noble-Williams, Clark, Dawson, Digby, Cywka, Dagnall, Hogan. Subs not used: O'Brien, Done, Wiseman, Stones, Rose.