DAVE Jones unbeaten run was phenomenal; it seemed fitting somehow that even the manner of its ending should be extraordinary.
No routine defeat, this. Bitter controversy surrounded something that referee Rob Lewis got horribly wrong then right, and it dominated the post-match debate.
What was the ref playing at, signalling a penalty for a perfect tackle by Mark Beevers? He seemed to have a good enough view of it. After a mass protest by the Owls, and a consulatation with a linesman, Lewis at least had the sense to see he got it wrong and change his mystifying decision,
But a three-minute hold-up brought mayhem, confusion, scuffles between players, and uproar in the crowd.
The ref seemed to lose control. Palace fans chanted: “You don’t know what you’re doing” - though that was probably because they thought he should have stuck with the initial decision.
Lewis seemed to want to restart play with a dropped ball but then just let Chris Kirkland have possession.
The result of the furore was an increase in the tempo and temperature of the game and, instead of Wednesday staying on course for a hard-fought point if not a win, an enlivened Palace snatched the late winner, with the Owls’ defending found wanting for the second time in the match.
Jones was angry because Lewis should have got it right first time - and he has risked a response from the FA by criticising the referee and officialdom.
a clean tackle. If we can see it from where we’re sitting, he can’t miss that. It’s unbelievable,” said themanager.
“We’d got a grip on the game. But he whipped up a frenzy. I thought he was poor.
“After that, the crowd were baying for blood; every challenge we made seemed to go against us.
“It [the penalty incident] was pivotal. He didn’t give it but it changed the complex of the game. They’re big, big decisions.
“They’ve got to get it right. It’s a difficult place to come to without them [the officials] giving them a helping hand.
“The linesman was poor all the way through with some of the decisions. We clipped the ball in to our front man; there’s a man behind him, and he gives offside. That’s the way it was going.
“We get into trouble for speaking out against them, but unless somebody does, they’ll get away with it.
“I’ve put in four reports over the last five games, and I’ve not heard one word back from the referees’ society. How are they going to correct it??
“It was a high-intensity game. Palace are struggling. They need points, It was always going to be whipped up. But I didn’t expect those three [the officials] to get involved in it as well.
“When you get the fourth official on the line saying ‘oh, I agree, that’s not right, he hasn’t got it right there, has he?’, as if it’s a joke ...it’s our livelihoods. No. Not right.”
Jones cited another example: “Two or their lads clattered into each other and he gives a free-kick against us. They’re the things that frustrate managers, coaches and players.”
It was also a blow when the Owls went behind after 26 seconds. Right winger Wilfried Zaha, though policed by Jose Semedo and Daniel Jones, crossed into the middle, Miguel Llera’s head part-cleared it, left winger Yannick Bolasie beat Lewis Buxton and crossed to Glenn Murray, who not had been picked up in front of goal.
But Jones kept returning to the referee’s performance: “We were on the front foot. He changed it [with the penalty incident]. The whole atmosphere changed. That was because of him, no-one else.”
The Owls boss said he had not spoken to Lewis: “What’s the point? I don’t care what the FA say to me. There’s no point. I went to see an assessor last week and they’ve now got an assessor assessing the assessor. Where do you stop?
“I don’t want to sound bitter. We’ve got problems to sort out in the game. But I’m fighting that as well now, because it’s just not right.
“I’ll probably get a phone call to go and see them. I don’t know what they do, where they go. I don’t know whether they go to some hotel and watch the video or whatever and say ‘this is right, that’s wrong’ and then think that’s correct.
“He [Lewis] got the decision right in the end. We weren’t going to let it go. Full credit to him. He went to his linesman and got it right. He did brilliant. Fantastic. Then he’s put me on the back foot, and I don’t like being on the back foot.”
Wednesday had two chances in the first half. Michail Antonio forced a good save from Julian Speroni, and Rodri volleyed wide after brilliantly pulling down a cross from Jermaine Johnson.
They deserved the equaliser. New right-side corner-taker Llera whipped one in with the left foot and the ball went in at the far post off Antonio. “It hit me on the ribs,” confirmed the winger.
Palace worked hard to close Wednesday down and get tight on Antonio and Johnson, and had their own dangerous wingers in Bolasie and Zaha. They also got men behind the ball and mostly defended well at set-pieces.
Wednesday could not reproduce the attacking entertainment of previous weeks but looked like grinding out a point. Chris Kirkland did not have a save to make, and neither side created a chance in the second half, until that
frantic late spell after the ‘penalty’, and Palace snatched their first points of the season.
Zaha beat Jones, the cross should have been cut out by Llera at the near post but he missed the ball and Murray was behind him to slot it home.