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Match report: Sheffield Wednesday 1 Crystal Palace 0

Owls Anthony Gardner up holds up Glenn Murray.

Owls Anthony Gardner up holds up Glenn Murray.

ONE down, four to go ... wins that is, as Wednesday move closer to the 52-point total that was pinpointed by Dave Jones last week as being possibly enough for safety.

It will not matter much how the necessary points are gained, just as the manner of Saturday’s important victory was less important than the outcome.

The Owls ground out the result in yet another of those games that could have gone either way.

The fact that it swung Wednesday’s stemmed from their rediscovery of the lethal finishing that was missing in the goalless draw at Birmingham four days earlier.

Michail Antonio, maker of two good chances at St Andrew’s, delivered a peach of a cross and Leroy Lita sent a diving header in off the bar for his third goal in five games.

It was lucky that Antonio was still on the pitch: “Michail was going to come off five minutes before that with a dead-leg,” explained Dave Jones.

“It was a great cross, and that’s what Leroy is all about. We hadn’t been giving him much to have a go at. When he got a chance he stuck it away really well.”

Palace manager Ian Holloway acknowledged: “Lita did what Lita does; he got his head on it. I was hoping it was going to bounce out.

“I didn’t think losing all three points was fair. Do I think we did enough to win? Probably not.”

Jones, naturally, thought the Owls shaded it.

I thought it was going to be another close, hard-fought draw, with Wednesday having had chances in the first half, and Palace getting on top in the second - before that breakthrough in the 80th minute extended the Owls’ unbeaten league run to seven games.

They could have had first-half goals. Lita tried to chest down a cross from Giles Coke instead of heading it; the striker also headed at the keeper from a ball by Kieran Lee, and Lee had a volley from an Antonio cross blocked in the goalmouth.

Wednesday could take some satisfaction from nullifying a top-four side, but Palace upped their game from the start of the second half.

Chris Kirkland made a good block from a shot by Scott Dobbie, a roving creator; midfielder Kagisho Dikgacoi drove an effort just past the angle; and Kirkland made a one-handed save from Yannick Bolasie.

But, thanks to Wednesday’s efforts, Bolasie was far less of an influence than in the 2-1 defeat at Selhurst Park in September, and the country’s top scorer, 28-goal Glenn Murray, who got both Eagles goals back then, was kept quiet throughout and had his service cut off for most of the time.

Wednesday were also helped by Wilfried Zaha’s absence with a dead-leg.

Palace could still throw on Kevin Phillips, among their substitutions, but it was Wednesday who went closest to scoring the second goal of the game.

In the first of four added minutes, sub Gary Madine put Lita through and his shot was well saved by Julian Speroni.

Jones confirmed that Lee was recalled to provide extra defensive strength out wide in view of the opposition - which meant no start for Jeremy Helan.

At least David Platt, Manchester City’s first-team coach, had nearly half an hour to see how Helan is getting on after he went on as a sub - a latest check by City, who have been keeping an eye on their man.

Jones views the home wins against Brighton and Palace as signs of significant progress.

“It shows what we are trying to do and how far we have come as a club. Confidence is very

good,” he said. “We had chances in the first half and we got into some good positions in the second.

“We looked solid. I can’t remember Kirky having a lot to do, and we limited them to very few chances.”

Holloway was gracious, though he did not think his team deserved to lose. “We were better in the second half than in the first, when we struggled to get our game going; that was down to them, their pressing and organisation. They’ve got a lot more belief than they had earlier in the season. Well done to them for that.

“I said a few things at half-time. It hasn’t gone our way, You have to look at the ease of the cross (for the goal). We backed off.

“Bolasie had been through and their keeper made a save. There were other opportunities, where we picked the wrong ball or they defended well.

“They got blocks in. Llera made one wonderful block (on Murray). He seemed to lunge from nowhere.”

Much has been said about the run of fixtures that faced the Owls: first Palace, next come Forest, Watford, Leicester and Cardiff. But four wins and three draws against Hull, Wolves, Charlton, Brighton, Derby, Birmingham and the Eagles, none of them pushovers in this unbeaten run, show that the club are doing nicely and can look forward with confidence.

 

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