Wednesday 2-0 Palace
21/02/09 - 3pm
IT wasn't the best game in the world, but Wednesday dug out three vital points against a determined Crystal Palace side who will have no doubt felt hard done by with the 2-0 scoreline.
Performance wise, it won't have left many in the near 23,000 crowd desperate to return to S6 for a taste of more, but the points were all that mattered on the back of two defeats and ahead of two tough matches.
It took some late substitutions from Brian Laws to turn the game, with late goals from the recalled Sean McAllister and sub Leon Clarke deep into injury time sealing the points for Wednesday against Neil Warnock's men.
Laws made four changes for the visit of the Eagles, Richard Wood being ruled out through injury while Lewis Buxton was suspended, so Richard Hinds switched to centre-back with the returning Mark Beevers, and Frank Simek returned at right-back.
McAllister also returned to the centre of midfield to replace James O'Connor, who dropped to the bench, while Francis Jeffers took the place of Clarke in attack.
But while Laws was hoping for a huge improvement from first-half performances against Doncaster and Barnsley, the Owls put in a lacklustre showing and were lucky to go into the half-time break on level terms.
Both sides dished up unattractive football, but it was the visitors who were shading the possession and chances.
Former Rotherham United man Alan Lee had the first real chance on goal when he raced through, only for the lanky legs of Beevers to race back and deny the Palace frontman with a superb last-gasp challenge.
If anything positive was going to come from the game, as well as the points, it was going to be the Owls' defensive showing.
Hinds, a top performer in midweek, enjoyed another good game at centre-back, while Simek looked like the Simek of old after a nervy opening 15 minutes, where Victor Moses caused him a few problems.
Off the pitch, it was certainly strange to see Wednesday fans in the top tier of the West Stand, with the small travelling Palace following being seated in the bottom tier, opening the top tier up to around 2,000 Owls fans.
But the majority of the near-23,000 crowd had little to cheer about, all apart from a tame McAllister effort 16 minutes in which Palace stopper Speroni easily stopped.
The best chance of the half came when Moses looked to have the perfect chance to give Palace the lead, only Alan Lee on the line stopped the effort going in, and Moses deflected the second attempt straight against the post as the Owls were left off the hook.
Although chances were few and far between, Wednesday weren't totally out of it, and they came close when Michael Gray sent Jermaine Johnson free down the right, and the Jamaican sent a teasing ball in which Jeffers looked to get on the end of an appeared to be felled, but the referee awarded Palace a free-kick.
The official wasn't exactly popular from either home or away fans in a stop-start first half, and his most popular decision came when he blew to the end of a lacklustre first half.
Half-Time: Wednesday 0-0 Palace
Wednesday needed a fast-paced start to the second half to get the fans back on their side, but it was the visitors who settled first.
Former Birmingham City midfielder Neil Danns looked to get through on goal, much like Lee in the first 45, but this time it was a tackle from the out-stretched Hinds who denied Danns an effort on goal.
Wednesday were forcing more of the play as the half continued though, and former Leeds United midfielder Shaun Derry had to be alert to head an effort from an Owls' corner off the line.
The match was become more open as the game progressed, and at the other end Palace came even closer to opening the deadlock when Clint Hill saw an effort come back off the woodwork from a John Oster free-kick.
Both sides made changes as they looked to take control, Leon Clarke being introduced for the Owls in place of Gray, with Tudgay moving out wide, while Claude Davis was forced off through injury for the visitors to be replaced by Matt Lawrence.
Wade Small was also inroduced for Wednesday at the expense of Jeffers, after Wednesday had a couple of good positional free-kicks outside the Palace box.
Darren Potter tested Speroni with his effort, though it was comfortably saved, while Jeffers' following effort went straight into the Palace wall.
But it was the introduction of Clarke that changed the game, and helped Wednesday make an 80th minute breakthrough.
The former Wolves hitman won a header from a corner and the ball dropped for McAllister at the far post, who smashed the ball into the back of the net before wheeling away in front of the Kop.
Palace pushed for a leveller, former Owls man Shefki Kuqi being thrown on by Warnock, and they came close when he fired just wide of goal.
But the hosts wrapped up the three points in the third minute of injury time when a superb cross from Simek allowed Clarke to add the lightest of touches to tuck the ball into the far corner.
Full-Time: Wednesday 2-0 Palace
Wednesday: Grant, Simek, Beevers, Hinds, Spurr, Johnson (O'Connor 90), McAllister, Potter, Gray (Clarke 66), Jeffers (Small 77), Tudgay. Unused subs: O'Donnell, Boden.
Palace: Speroni, Hill, Derry, Jose Fonte, Lee, Moses (Kuqi 69), Scannell, Danns, Davis (Lawrence 56), Oster, Clyne. Unused subs: Carle, Butterfield, Rui Fonte.